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Contributed by Damien Sheehan, president, Grampians Winemakers Inc.
Growing season: The growing season was mainly mild and promised much. However, there were three critical times when the conditions werent so mild which had significant impacts on yield. Budburst was early and there were frosts that affected some vineyards in the district. Other than the frosts, the spring began with only what moisture was in the profile as the dry weather settled in for the duration significant impact number one. Conditions returned to mild until flowering when the region experienced a cold snap to which Shiraz, our dominant variety, was most susceptible and various vineyards and properties were affected to varying degrees significant impact number two. Conditions returned to mild again until late January and early February when south-eastern Australia suffered successive heatwaves. Fortunately, this region had not begun veraison and only fruit with westerly exposure really suffered. However, areas of vineyard that were already under moisture stress and did not have access to supplementary water also suffered leaf loss but this effect was not consistent throughout significant impact number three. Conditions returned to mild one more time and remained that way through to harvest.
Vintage: Harvest occurred at close to normal timing (whats normal?); perhaps just slightly earlier due to the mild and dry conditions in spring. The harvest progressed in a more orderly manner than in 2008, and even 2007, which was a welcome change. I feel 2009 perhaps resembled the 2005 vintage for timing.
Yields and quality: Due to the three significant impacts mentioned above, i.e. dry and mild spring (some frosts), cold snap at flowering and heatwaves prior to veraison, grapevines were waging a war of attrition. Yields throughout the region varied by the degree to which they fell below the average, as much as 60% in many blocks and generally by 30% overall. Amazingly, and as has been the case many times this difficult decade, Riesling was a star performer, with very good acid retention and typical flavour expression. To date, all Shiraz in the region has performed well, exhibiting promising sugar-acid-flavour balance and little evidence of undesirable attributes. However, yields were well down. Some reports describe Shiraz quality as exceptional.