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2003 vintage report for Henty (Victoria)

Budburst began in a solid manner, albeit a little later than usual. Bunch numbers were low but the absence of frost balanced the levels of optimism. As a warm spring progressed, vines made up lost ground quickly.  Unfortunately, flowering was dominated by a 10-day cold snap. This affected early flowering varieties that were already hampered by low bunch numbers. Later flowering varieties set well. The summer was benign but cool with few periods of prolonged hot weather, powdery mildew being the only disease to exert pressure on some growers due to the mild conditions.

The easy season ended in the last week of February, and the hard days began. February rainfall was 400% above normal. Three days and nights of unseasonal humidity, combined with 50 to 70 mm of rain, caused the rapid onset of Botrytis and downy mildew. Further falls of up to 115 mm around 20 March didn’t help. Late March and April were great for ripening but it came too late for some.

Harvest of sparkling fruit began around 20 March, the last fruit, Cabernet Sauvignon, coming off in the first week of May. Timing of harvest was often dominated by disease level of Botrytis. On average, yields were moderately below normal but significantly better than last year. Within those figures, blocks that flowered during the 10-day cold period were significantly below, whereas neighboring blocks were good, even above average.

Two other major events this year were the emergence of Pinot Gris as a significant variety for the region, and the appearance of European wasps in the north of the region.

The cool summer has produced fruit with good natural acid and pH levels. Baume levels varied across the region; high Baume was reached in the north, while flavour ripeness occurred at lower than expected Baumes in the south. In the end it was a more difficult season but the longer term results due to the good natural acid levels give this vintage particularly good prospects.