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1997 vintage report for Clare Valley (South Australia)

‘Generally acclaimed as a top year,’ said Andrew Tolley, chairman of the Clare Valley Winemakers, of his region. Yield was down by about 15%, but varied significantly within the valley and by variety. The decrease in yield was due to a combination of factors, including a relatively dry spring and summer and a very hot February. ‘We had 30-40 mm of rain on February 6, which was a godsend!’ Andrew said. ‘The very hot February weather slowed down the ripening process. However, the lack of any heatwave conditions during vintage was a big plus for quality, and there were negligible disease problems.’ Andrew said it was a very good year for Rieslings. ‘They are exhibiting extraordinary long and full flavours with good natural acid,’ he said. ‘Chardonnay and Semillon are again rich and full-flavoured.’ Andrew said the reds were deeply coloured, with rich and robust flavours. They would be big wines and typical of those for which the Clare Valley is famous. ‘They may require longer to mature than other years,’ he said. BRL Hardy reports that their Clare Valley vineyards benefited from good rainfall in early February (about 75 mm), rejuvenating the foliage in vines and sustaining them through an abnormal burst of high temperatures later that month. Mild conditions from late February through to early March extended the length of the ripening period for most varieties, producing fruit with good varietal characters and flavour. Yields were slightly below average; however dryland Shiraz vineyards performed extremely well. ‘The quality of Riesling from Clare is clearly up on recent vintages with young wines displaying great intensity, fine structure and soft acidity. The Shiraz wines are elegant, exhibiting typical Clare Shiraz liquorice characters and fruit flavours. Cabernet Sauvignon has been particularly good, exhibiting lifted spicy varietal aromas,’ said BRL Hardy chief winemaker Peter Dawson.