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2003 vintage report for Canberra (NSW/ACT)

Total production in the Canberra District reached record levels this vintage thanks to both the increased bearing area and the age of young vineyards. This was despite yields generally being lower due to the drought.

The drought was the hot topic around town and the dry conditions certainly showed the benefits of good moisture monitoring systems, while testing those with insufficient water resources. Vineyards reported one of the lowest levels of fungicide use in the district’s history and with dry conditions prevailing, there was minimal disease incidence. The only significant rain event for the season was in early February when about 75 mm fell across the district. In the warmer areas where ripening was more progressed, this caused some berry splitting in thin-skinned varieties. The subsequent dry and windy conditions meant that the split berries dried well, reducing potential negative impacts on the crop. Vineyards in the cooler areas benefited enormously from this rain.

With the very warm conditions, all key growth stages were brought forward resulting in an exceptionally early harvest. These conditions brought early sugar accumulation and lower acid levels in general. The sequence of varietal maturity and picking dates varied from previous vintages. Generally, higher Baumes were reported in red varieties with Shiraz coming in fully ripe up to a month before the Cabernet family. Late varieties benefited from a cooler but dry late March to early April, allowing them to be held on the vine longer with gradual build-up of ripe flavours and tannins.

Overall, wineries in the three main areas of the Canberra District: Hall, Lake George and Murrumbateman, have all reported superb quality fruit being delivered to the crusher.