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The Swan Valley had an excellent and most challenging Vintage 1997What makes a good vintage is the prevailing weather conditions prior to and during vintage. The weather in the later half of 1996 was a very wet growing season but with good flowering conditions. December and January were relatively mild interspersed by a few very hot days. ‘Indeed we had the hottest three-day start to January ever on record. A pattern of hot/cool conditions continued for the next two months. Overall because of the cooler conditions flavour development was far greater than in a normal Swan Valley vintage,’ said David Atkinson, president of the Swan Valley & Regional Winemakers Association Vintage started generally in the first week of February. Some wineries in the valley started earlier, the earlier ripening varieties such as Verdelho and Chardonnay were harvested in good condition showing sweet ripe varietal flavours which continued throughout the harvest. The variety on which the Swan Valley has made its reputation Chenin Blanc had a mixed year, at best it showed excellent passionfruit and tropical flavours with crisp refreshing acidity. ‘By far one of the best varieties I believe was Semillon which displayed intense lemon and straw characters typical of years in which humidity plays a major role in the ripening process,’ David said.Whilst these varieties were ripening and being harvested the reds sat contentedly on the vine. Shiraz — the variety that can do no wrong – -produced rich ripe plum and licorice flavours devoid of any jammy boiled fruit characters seen in hot years. Cabernet shows lifted typical chocolate, spice and berry flavours with very good levels of acidity. Those winemakers who still produce the unique and remarkable Swan Valley fortifieds found the mild conditions ideal for the making of luscious intense heartwarming Tokays, Muscats and Verdelhos. Vintage in the Swan Valley finished in the third week of March — the longest ever on record and in summary the portents for this vintage are more than favourable, the aromatic white varieties are fresh with a good balance of flavours, the fuller bodied whites now maturing in oak will be gaining the necessary characters for further complexity – -the reds are soft with fine tannins, high alcohol and sweet fruit. In all a most welcomed vintage of high quality and quantity in which those producers who paid careful attention to detail have made Swan Valley wines which will please even the most ardent Margaret River devotees.David Atkinson & Paul LapsleySwan Valley & Regional Winemakers Association (Inc).P O Box 1873 Midland Western Australia 6936June 1997 BRL Hardy reports that Houghton Wines in WA generally yielded a high quality result for red and white varieties, notably Chardonnay, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Overall tonnages were down on 1996. The Verdelho intake for Houghton was up 124% on 1996, mainly due to new plantings at Moondah Brook, Frankland River and Pemberton coming into production. ‘Chenin Blanc is the best we’ve seen for a number of years and the Cabernet Sauvignon from Frankland River and Margaret River is very strong,’ BRL Hardy winemaker Peter Dawson said.