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1997 vintage report for Coonawarra (South Australia)

Vintage in Coonawarra started in the last week of March, which is normal for the region. Ian Hollick, a member of the Coonawarra Vignerons’ Association, said there was a 30% decrease in yields due to cooler temperatures during bud initiation in 1995 and wind at fruit set 1996. Main varieties affected were Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Weather during vintage was cool to mild with much cloud cover. This contributed to good depth of flavour and colour on most varieties. The late onset of botrytis was good for dessert wine styles. Ian described the quality of 1997 reds as ‘excellent’ in the lower yielding varieties and older vineyards and ‘good’ for the younger vineyards, depending on yields. ‘The earlier white varieties are also excellent, with great botrytis infections for later picked styles,’ Ian said. He said lower yields were fortunate, as bigger crops would have had difficulty reaching optimum/maximum maturity, due to the lack of sunshine. Late rains had affected very little of the harvest, he said. Wynns Coonawarra Estate winemaker Peter Douglas said the vintage was ‘one of the best we’ve seen with regard to potential quality.’ The area had one of the hottest years since 1982/83, with February temperatures in the high 30s to over 40 °C, but March temperatures were 20-25 °C, with minimal rainfall. Estate viticulturist David Murdock said approximately 10% of vineyards received a small amount of irrigation in order to maintain vine health. He said white grape yields were holding well; however red cropping levels, Cabernet in particular, were down on expectations, due to an extended flowering period. ‘Skin to juice ratio is very positive,’ Mr Murdock said. ‘Quality will certainly make up for reduced yields.’ Coonawarra Vignerons president Greg Clayfield said there was quality across all varieties, with the quality of Sauvignon Blanc reported to be outstanding.