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Contributed by John Beresford, secretary, Goulburn Valley Wine Association
Growing season: Sporadic but timely rain events in the Goulburn Valley late in 2008 ensured soil moisture conditions were adequate throughout flowering resulting in even fruitset across all varieties. Record maximum temperatures up to 46oC in the first week of February combined with furnace-like northerly winds which culminated in the devastating Black Saturday bushfires across regional Victoria on 7 February. Temperatures were moderated for the balance of the ripening period but there was little rainfall to provide natural relief to heat-stressed vines.
Vintage: The unprecedented heat events following veraison provided a significant turning point in influencing vintage 2009 yield outcomes. All varieties suffered various levels of sunburn particularly on the western side of north-south oriented rows. Heat contributed to up to 30% of yield decline with the aromatic whites appearing to be the most susceptible.
Yields and quality: At early stages of vinification quality has ranged from very good to outstanding. There were early fears that the heat extremes may turn the 2009 vintage into a non-event, however, resultant quality has proved to be quite the opposite. Reds across the board are showing brilliant colour intensity with vibrancy and texture. Shiraz is consistently the standout variety and this can probably be attributed to its ability to withstand higher temperatures at critical growth periods. Whites, despite some loss through raisoning and dessication post-veraison, have held up exceptionally well despite acid levels being lower than normal.