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Following fairly good spring weather for budburst and flowering, summer came on hot and fast. The hot and dry weather caused some concern that the fruit would sweeten rapidly and result in a significantly early harvest. Sugar levels did rise quickly initially then levelled out following timely rain, allowing the colour and flavour levels to catch up. Most of the fruit harvested was free of disease; there were many reports of dried and shrivelled berries.
Cold, overcast conditions during the spring of 2001 were expected to cause lower yields and this was the case, with reports of yields down by up to 70%. Shiraz bunch numbers and size were down. Several spring frosts occurred, although generally not severe enough to cause widespread damage. The lower-lying vineyards at Great Western did, however, receive some frost damage and fruit loss.
Several younger vineyards planted in the last decade yielded higher than the region average due to these vines reaching maturity. Generally the quality of fruit from these vineyards is producing some really special wines showing wonderful regional pepper and spice.
Throughout the growing season high winds put vines that were already short of moisture under increased stress. Growers that rely on dams for supplementary irrigation were being extremely thrifty with the limited resource. Those that have access to wastewater were in a more favourable situation, although this resource was also relatively scarce due to the widespread water restrictions that had been introduced more than a year earlier.
Relief arrived late in February with about 50 mm of rain. There were localised reports of fruit damage from splitting but generally the watering gave sufficient boost to allow the grapes to reach full maturity. Another 10 mm of rain early in March helped settle the dust and also kicked off a late hatching of vine moth caterpillars causing considerable foliage loss for some growers.
Harvesting of Shiraz occurred from late March through April. Sugar levels were generally high for most varieties, pH and acidity levels were good and there were reports of low tartaric acid additions being required. There is strong mint, berry and pepper characters in the Shiraz, and reported green leafy elements in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Chardonnay and Riesling have good floral and citrus aromas.
The last fruit had been harvested by mid May, almost coinciding perfectly with our premier regional event the Grampians Gourmet Festival held at Hall’s Gap.
‘The challenge ahead for our region is to manage our resource more efficiently and improve viticultural practices to maintain and improve grape quality in future years, especially while the climatic conditions continue to be so extreme,’ said Simon Clayfield, chairman of Grampians Winemakers.