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Contributed by Anthony Brain, winemaker, Bellarine Estate, and Paul Champion, Mermerus Vineyard and vice-president, Geelong Wine Association
Growing season: Very little rain in winter and spring led to very small canopy growth in the early part of season. The flowering period was cool and windy with Shiraz suffering a very poor fruitset. Take out the excessive heat days from the averages (above 40°C) and the rest of the summer was marginally cooler than average. The heat caused lots of sunburn and leaf loss. We found flowering, fruitset and ripening to be very inconsistent. Where has the rain gone? We need a wet, wet winter!
It was a dry summer with hot periods in January, then a cool February and March with a longer-than-usual ripening season. Black Saturday had a big impact on the fruit, with damage reported across the region.
Vintage: Vintage harvest times and dates were more in line with pre-drought normality with Chardonnay starting in mid- March and concluding with Shiraz by mid-April. However some whites were as early as February and some reds in May. We attribute the longer vintage to weather changes.
Yields and quality: Quality looks good with great reds showing good round, ripe flavours and structured mid-palates, with fine tannins to finish. While the whites look good, they display purity and linear structure, but lack richness and fruit weight, considering the low yields. They may yet surprise us. Yields were down across the region with about 6070% being the norm. Varietal picks are Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Merlot which look really good. We had very low yields due to drought, but excellent quality fruit. Pinot Noir and Shiraz are this years standout varieties.