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Despite challenging weather and below average yields, the 2003 vintage was very pleasing, according to Bruce Redman, president of the Coonawarra Vignerons Association.
During the 2002 winter, Coonawarra had below average rainfall, however the rain that did fall, fell in late winter so that the soil moisture levels at the start of the growing season were at, or above, previous seasons. This ensured good soil moisture levels for the spring growing period. These conditions brought about a good, even and slightly early budburst in early to mid September.
Consistent weather patterns continued right through spring with warm days, average rainfall and no frost damage. As a consequence no disease problems were experienced.
December and January were warm to hot and dry, however there were two significant rain events. The first occurred on New Year’s Day with 30 mm of rain recorded, with another 30 mm of rain falling at the end of January. Fortunately, on both occasions, the rain was followed by warm, drying weather.
The weather turned milder during February with lower than average temperatures. In late February, 35 mm of rain fell over three days and as a result there was a small amount of berry splitting (estimated at around 5%, with Chardonnay, Riesling and Shiraz being most affected).
Vintage commenced with the harvest of grapes for sparkling wine base in late February and the harvest of white grape varieties for still wine in early March.
On 19 March, 48 mm of rain fell in just over five hours, with some reports of localised minor hail damage. This caused a brief flurry of activity as winemakers picked any damaged fruit. Following this was a temporary lull in harvesting as winemakers waited for the sugar levels to rise.
Subsequent to this rain the weather was near perfect, with warm, sunny days continuing through to the completion of harvest. These ideal conditions resulted in fruit reaching its full maturity.
The harvest was completed in early May with yields approximately 25% below average across all varieties. This reduction in yield has been attributed to low bud fruitfulness from the previous season rather than the weather conditions.
The 2003 white wines are showing excellent varietal definition and flavour, and the red wines are very well balanced and showing good varietal characters, with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon looking particularly strong.