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Contributed by Philip Martin.
Growing season: The 2008-09 season in the Southern Highlands was generally about average. Rainfall returned to long-term average levels, and the early January heatwave was very brief, and came later than southern regions, so did little damage to those who were prepared for it. Frost was not an issue early in the season, and timing of the critical stages was around the usual throughout the season. The New Year period with cold weather followed by (brief) extreme heat seemed to upset the usual relationships between varieties as to the beginning of veraison, but all evened out towards the end of the season. A December spell of damp weather caused some unexpected outbreaks of downy mildew, but normal control measures were successful in treating this.
Vintage: Again, no unusual timing this year, with most of the crop picked between mid-March and mid-April. Our normal cool, sunny autumn helped mature the late-ripening varieties, ensuring clean, good quality fruit at harvest. The only difficult situation arose with the fear of smoke damage from hazard reduction burning by local authorities whilst fruit was still on the vine. Close liaison with the Rural Fire Service and a rescheduling of potentially damaging burns averted any damage. A joint planning protocol is now being prepared for subsequent vintages so that our vignerons and Fire Authorities can co-operate over this important issue in the years ahead. This will ensure community safety whilst protecting our industry from unnecessary damage and losses.
Yields and quality: Yields were a little below average for most varieties with quality being excellent, and in some cases, exceptional. All in all, an average to average-plus year, with no major issues arising.