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1997 vintage report for Pemberton (Western Australia)

Pemberton wine region’s 1997 vintage was a longer than usual vintage with slow ripening fruit, reported Kathryn Burgess, secretary of the Pemberton Wine Region Association. Nevertheless ripening was even, resulting in very good to excellent quality. Vintage commenced in early March and the last fruit was harvested on May 8. The 1997 yields were below those of 1996, as expected, due to unseasonal weather conditions at flowering. However, the 15% decrease in yield was offset by many young vines coming into full production. The late break to the season ensured that fruit was picked in generally good condition. The February rains assisted the vines through the later warm days, with no additional irrigation warranted. Kathryn said as a result of the climatic influences disease problems centred on botrytis, weevils and contained powdery mildew, but correctly timed sprays ensured excellent control. Vintage quality for whites was excellent, particularly Chardonnay, which displayed good ripe fruit flavour and acid balance,’ she said. ‘In general, however, vineyards in the region report that their Chardonnay yields were down, with a small number of vineyards experiencing some fruit split, particularly in Pinot Noir, Semillon and Verdelho. Those growers who delayed harvesting were rewarded for their patience with fruit which displayed good flavour and body.’Kathryn said the 1997 vintage quality for reds was extremely good in vineyards with balanced vines. Some of the reds were delayed in harvesting as growers sought to reach good Baumes. The long periods of cool conditions favoured slow flavour development with resultant extended berry flavours. Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot displayed outstanding colour and essence. A highlight was the total absence of bird damage, after the 1996 vintage when bird damage by silvereyes was extensive. Some bird netting was applied late into harvest to the slow ripening fruit as a precautionary measure. ‘All in all it was a good to excellent vintage,’ said Kathryn. ‘It displays the huge potential of the Pemberton region to produce good yields of great fruit in a season that was not as kind to other Western Australian regions. Pemberton’s cool climate with warm nights, due to its coastal proximilty, has great potential as a high quality grape producing region.’