Well, it’s the first day back after the Christmas break and the winery is pretty close to being ready for vintage which is great – early preparation for an expected early vintage gives me peace of mind.
So, how is the vineyard looking? A few words can easily sum it up – dry, balanced, healthy – but let me fill this out a bit.
The vineyard is looking very healthy and so it should in a warm, dry growing season with very low disease pressure. There are a few risks ahead unless there is a substantial rain event, especially close to harvest. There is a bit of scarring from some early season hail (more on that later) which might rupture the berry open if there is a quick uptake of moisture but fingers crossed.... Dry – crunchy grass, even the weeds are struggling a bit this year. This is one of the few seasons in Orange that the irrigation gets a really good workout.
We had 25mm of rain on Christmas Day but we have had some pretty warm weather since, so that moisture is long gone. Even paddock stock dams are dry and empty – it’s looking drier than 2009-2010 which is the driest season in my time at Printhie. Irrigation is a supplement but not a replacement for rainfall, so while we have been irrigating plenty the vines could do with a bit more rain. Overall the vines look quite balanced. There is enough canopy to ripen the fruit but not an over abundance – certainly trimming is not required this season. There are only moderate crop levels but they match the moderate canopy. Berry size will be smaller than average, so while there is a good number of bunches they will be lighter.
The hail damage will also reduce berry weight.
There was an early season hail storm, really tiny rice grain sized hail that appeared quite soft. It did not tear any leaves and we presumed the damage would be negligible but as the berries develop we are quite surprised by the impact. It is not substantial and will not cause quality concerns. However, we will have to be conscious of tannin management in all varieties to ensure we achieve the desired texture in the wines. So, then to quality. I have quite high expectations for high quality wines – I’m looking forward to getting the fruit in the winery and hoping mother nature holds up her end.
When can we expect harvest? There is still some distance to go. Pinot Gris and Merlot are just showing the very beginnings of veraison. There is a rule of thumb of forty days from veraison to harvest and in a warmer, more forward season it may be a little less. Nevertheless, I would expect the first fruit to be coming in around 10-15 February if the weather remains as it has been.
That will put us weeks ahead of the long-term average and not dissimilar to vintage 2013 and harvest was all done and dusted before the end of March.