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2008 vintage in the Barossa: a tale of two vintages

As Mark Twain famously said “the report of my death was an exaggeration” and many in the media have adopted the same modus operandi for reporting on the 2008 vintage.

Well respected journalist James Halliday was more circumspect when summing up the vintage in the Wine Business International column in late March. He attributed the early start to vintage not so much to climate change but to the bone-dry soils warmed very quickly in spring and early summer, and that the vines responded to ongoing soil warmth, and to endless cloudless days, with accelerated ripening.

“We started crushing on 30 January and this was the earliest start date on record for Peter Lehmann Wines (PLW). The grapes ripened quite quickly and vintage was compressed which put considerable pressure on grape picking as well as the winemaking side,” PLW managing director Doug Lehmann said.

The cropping level was up to estimate and can be described as a good, average crop, particularly in view of the water restrictions. Apart from a burst of hot weather in early February, the month saw very stable weather conditions, resulting in even ripening. A large proportion of our fruit came in during this period and the resulting wines look very good.

Then in March we had a record stretch of 15 days where the maximum temperature did not drop below 35 degrees Celsius. This caused elevated sugar levels and some breakdown in fruit condition among the later ripening varieties. However in the scheme of the total PLW vintage this was relatively minor.”

Vintage was effectively over by 20 March and was completed on 13 May, when we crushed the Botrytis Semillon. The total crush at PLW for 2008 was 18,141 tonnes compared to 11,655 tonnes in 2007, an increase of 55.6% on the previous year.

This greatly compressed vintage period of 7 weeks instead of the usual 12 weeks put a great deal of pressure on the people and equipment.

“Thankfully our team held up and we had sufficient fermentation space and storage capacity,” Lehmann said.

Overall the white wines show delicacy and good fruit flavours. Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot, Tempranillo, Grenache and Mourvedre all look strong with excellent depth of colour at this early stage.

“We are confident at Peter Lehmann Wines that the 2008 vintage is a year of above average quality across most styles and will be one for lovers of good wine to anticipate,” concluded Lehmann.

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