Has 2017 been a good vintage?
It is the 24th vintage for us at Botobolar. Looking back on the previous 23, it seems we have come full circle. Back in 1994 we harvested Chardonnay at the end of February and then brought in the Shiraz and Cabernet mid to late March. Over the last 10 to 15 years everything was harvested in early to late February. I have a theory that because of the drier times we have had since 2000 the vines have ripened the fruit much earlier and probably have not gotten to the more full flavoured ripeness that we have seen in the past.This year has seen a return to longer ripening periods and better flavours in the fruit.
I think this is due to the wonderful rain we had between May and September last winter. The rainfall was above average all winter and finished off with record rain last September. September’s figures were 220mls which was twice the old record of 113mls set in 2005. What the rain did was fill the soil profile so that there was plenty of water below the surface that the vines could tap into. The water tanks were filled as well as the big dam down in the vineyard. This has not been the case for many years and the harvests over the last 15 years reflect that.
So what am I getting at? This has been a good vintage. The Chardonnay and Riesling came in during late February and were fresh and full flavoured. The Shiraz was harvested on March 6 has great colour and good acid balance. The Cabernet was picked on the 16th before our autumn rain set in, a portion of this cabernet will be used for 'The Brigit' Rosé.
Being an old (46 years) vineyard Botobolar does not produce large yields but the quality, providing we have good rain, is top notch. I look forward to crafting this year’s wines and taking advantage of what the vineyard has given us.
With the Shiraz this year I have gone with a natural ferment, meaning I did not add any commercial yeast to ferment it. We picked it, crushed it and waited for it to ferment on its own. When the fruit is harvested it has naturally occurring yeast on the skins that can do the job and that has been the case so far. Although a bit slower I feel the end product will give us a wine that is truly representative of the vineyard.
There is always a sense of excitement when vintage comes around and this year is no exception. It is fun to drive around Mudgee and see who is doing what. Big and little trucks carrying grapes to this winery or that, the whole town in action and all the winemaking community flat out to produce this year’s wine is a sight. Vintage is quite a bit of work, long hours, but a sense of comradery prevails. If something breaks down as it usually does, there are plenty of local winemakers that will come to the rescue. Just a good time of year, and I am so happy to be part of it. Although the Shiraz will be sleeping in barrels for at least a year the Riesling, Chardonnay and the Brigit Rose’ should be ready for release this June. I would love to rattle on but there is wine to make!