Vintage 2019 was one of the most difficult vintages I can remember. If I think of our least favourable vintages, they would be 2005, 2006,2007 and this vintage had moments of all of them.
Starting the March Long Weekend as usual but quickly noticed our volume was down, significantly down. The flavour looks good for the Chardonnay however we will have less than usual of what is already a small batch wine.
The Muller was 60% down, making the fermentation process and handling of this wine difficult. Lots of re purpose kegs and every fridge in the winery had a keg in it trying to make the best wine possible. It looks great however due to the small volume I was somewhat forced to make the decision to blend it with our Riesling pressings.
One of the hardest things in the wine industry is consistency and the Australian wine industry demands it. I find this sometimes constraining especially creativity. I feel to blend the Muller and Riesling Pressings is not a bad idea since a Riesling Gertztraimier blend is quite common, and, in fact almost on trend and very reflective of this vintage. The wine looks amazing lovely and textural. The Riesling doesn't dominate the Muller which is so important. A lovely wine which will be received well even though it is not a straight Muller Thurgau.
So next is the Riesling. On the weekend of the 10th March we receive some unwelcome rain, 30mm +. To be fair I got a lot less than some other vineyards and some even got hit with hail. A series of thunderstorms keep rolling through and we watch with eagle eyes praying for no hail. 2 days later we inspected the vineyard for damage and the grapes had started to split. In 42 years, we have never had any grapes split. I remember telling Linda and she jumped and said "what?" She too was amazed it happened. Analysis showed the acid was high, really high and I was looking down the barrel of being our Riesling in technically unbalanced for the first time ever.
Again, to be fair I was not alone. Every winemaker in the GS had their hand forced by the rain and pending Botrytis infection. I played what I thought was a best deal and took it to the absolute knife edge. Against advice, I hung the Riesling out for an extra 5 days to let as much of the acid drop as I could before the Botrytis infection was too much. I really did not want to battle the high acid in the winery. I now have a riper but full Riesling flavour, strong acid (that was never going to completely go away) a very small amount of residual sugar to make what is a balanced Riesling. Time will tell how it will fair in the long however it will age well.
Pinot was our next handpicked around the same time the Riesling was picked. Again, volume was down 60% for this wine which is such a shame. I make an excellent Pinot and it really sells well on some very high-profile lists. However, I have so little of it I am still unsure how it will go. Currently in oak and I will re assess once it goes through malo.
By this stage I am very disappoint with vintage, because the volume was low, I felt that we really hadn't started and there was nothing to get my teeth stuck into and excited about. To give you an idea of the battle against the weather in March 2018 we received 22mm, in March 2019 we received 68mm.
We also struggled with the workload. We had many events planned months before, but all coincided with vintage. Race wars, Graze Mount Barker and the Long weekend was when we picked all the Chardonnay and Muller. Grapes and Gallops was same weekend all the pinot and Riesling come in.
Now we focused on the reds which were slow to ripen, and the birds were hungry as there was no blossom left on trees. There were times when I wondered if they would ever ripen bringing nightmares of 2006 again.
Finally, a win! April 3rd so we started the reds and brought in Cabernet Sauvignon which look and taste amazing. Volumes were about right for the Cabernet however extremely down for Merlot. We also picked two of our Shiraz Blocks leaving one out to ripen further for our whole bunch shiraz. Volumes looked normally but again the workload was heavy bringing everything in barre one block and Taste festival had began and we had 4 events in six days which included our famous Long Table Lunch. The following weekend was Easter and another festival event.
Last but not lest the last shiraz block look good and was ready to pick. We handpicked the shiraz to make our whole bunch shiraz. Volumes are good and we can finish on a high note however the workload continued. After about 10 days on skins all the reds were press one after the other over the weekend as Nigel needed to gear up and start seeding in Frankland. I then put all the reds to bed as we begin the bottling of 2019 whites and older vintages
To sum up Vintage 2019 was a difficult but solid vintage with some varieties experiencing a decline in volume of up to 30-60% and other varieties battle extreme weather conditions. Despite conditions wines look solid with standout varieties of Muller Blend and whole bunch Shiraz.
It has been a hard vintage with little to sing about. I think in the long run everything will be ok however if I did 3 vintages like that in a row I might have to reconsider if it is worth it. Like the wine, I think it is best to put it bed and move on.
make sure you read my son Jack version of Vintage here https://www.galafreywines.com.au/kim-s-wine-blog/my-busiest-holidays-yet-by-jack