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Contributed by Barry Morey, president, Beechworth Vignerons Association.
Growing season: The growing season started with very low soil moisture. Most growers started with dams well below full capacity. Budburst was even and favourable weather allowed for good fruitset and a potential average to above average vintage. Three frost events occurred in the more susceptible vineyards but protection worked and no damage was recorded. Welcome rains in December (33mm on 12 December and 10mm on 17 December) and January (12mm on 11 January) helped and took the pressure off the limited supply of irrigation water.
The season changed at the end of January with eight days recorded above 40°C. Night temperatures also stayed high, well above 12°C with the highest night temperature being 27oC. Most of the vines shut down during this period.
Vintage: Vintage started first week in February for the early varieties at lower altitudes (350m) and ended in mid-April with the later varieties at higher altitudes (750m). Vintage started three to four weeks early for some growers, while for the higher elevated vineyards it started about one week early. Good March temperatures of 30-32°C maximum and 6-16°C minimum allowed for a good finish to what potentially could have been a tough vintage and we found vintage finished at a similar time to other years.
Yields and quality: Yields varied enormously. Some growers with early varieties on exposed sites with exposed fruit lost most of their fruit to sunburn and did not pick those varieties. There was a lot of berry shrivel reported and, in general, yields were below average. The later varieties coped best with Cabernet and Shiraz showing most potential.