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Despite the threat from January’s bushfires, Adelaide Hills grapegrowers and winemakers were celebrating, what they believed was the best vintage in 10 years.
Although some media reports have highlighted problems with smoke taint in the region, that problem has hit a very small part of the Adelaide Hills.
The devastating bushfire in the Sampson Flat Area burnt through 12,500 hectares; with a perimeter of 240km. 35 hectares of vineyard were damaged with seven vineyard owners directly affected. Richard Hamilton, Adelaide Hills Technical Committee chair said fortunately the fire occurred before vines had entered veraison, as once in veraison smoke taint becomes a major issue.
A confidential grape and wine testing program was implemented with a panel of winemakers volunteering their time and resources, Hamilton said. Very few samples tested positive for smoke taint. However some grape purchasers were strongly risk averse and there was rejection of a significant amount of grapes from the areas surrounding the bushfire affected vineyards.
Apart from the bushfires, Hamilton said the 2014/15 growing season had some unusual features as a result of unseasonal weather patterns.
Fortunately, despite one of the driest growing seasons on record, the majority of the region has produced average to above average crops with high natural acid and excellent flavour profiles, Hamilton said.
A combination of good soil moisture levels over winter and early recognition by the majority of growers of the dry spring conditions resulted in good sized canopies. Despite fruit potential being below average, well-developed canopies and warm weather resulted in good flowering and set across the region.
Hamilton said predictions for an exceptionally early start to harvest were tempered by an unseasonably mild January.
Harvest began one week earlier than last year for the earliest varieties with the later varieties ripening considerably earlier than last season so vintage for the majority of the district was completed by the end of March, Hamilton said. This is up to a month earlier than past vintages.
Hamilton said winemakers were excited by wine quality with excellent acid balance and strongly developed flavours and wine colour.
At this time the expectation is that wines from the 2015 vintage will be among the best that have been produced in this region for some time.