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2003 vintage report for King Valley (Victoria)

Budburst occurred in mid to late September following a dry winter. Above average temperatures and wind speeds were recorded throughout October and November. A freak storm swept through the region in November, resulting in hail damage on a handful of vineyards in the lower reaches of the valley. Warm, dry conditions in late November/early December saw a relatively fast flowering period with good fruitset being achieved on most varieties.

Extremes of high temperatures during January and the first half of February were partly tempered by the smoke haze which periodically blanketed the region, and provided a constant reminder of the harrowing bushfires in the nearby Alpine Valleys region. As the smoke haze was a new phenomenon for growers to contend with, several questions were being asked regarding the effect the haze would have on grape quality. Fortunately, due to the distance from the fire front and the intermittent nature of the smoke haze, smoke taint in the wine—which was a major problem in other regions—was not an issue for the King Valley.

Vintage commenced during the first week of February with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir being harvested for sparkling wine. This was two weeks earlier than normal as a result of the hot, dry conditions on December and January. White table wines followed throughout mid February to mid March, with reds being harvested throughout late March and April. Vintage concluded at the end of April.

Due to the fast ripening rates of reds in late February/ early March, initial fears of a tight, compact vintage—therefore putting pressure on processing capacity—were allayed following cooler conditions in late March.

The first significant rainfall event for the season occurred in mid April with falls of 60 to 100 mm being recorded. Fortunately, approximately 80% of the grapes were harvested at this stage. Baume levels on the remaining unharvested grapes dropped back following the rain, extending vintage by another two weeks.

The very dry conditions throughout the season resulted in below average berry size and bunch weights. As a result yields were 15 to 20% below average.

Winemakers are reporting above average quality wines, with some outstanding examples of Chardonnay and Riesling, which display strong varietal characters. The reds have very good colour and, while big in structure, are tempered by good fruit balance. There are some excellent examples of Merlot, Shiraz and Durif.