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Winemakers in Canberra have tipped 2015 as the best vintage ever after an early beginning.
The season peaked in late March and by the end of the month only a rump of cooler, higher vineyards, late-ripening varieties and grapes destined for dessert wines remained to be picked.
Late on Saturday, March 21, Ken Helm, Murrumbateman winemaker rang the old cellar-door bell, signalling the end of the vintage.
“It’s the earliest vintage in my 39 years here. It’s also our biggest crush, and the winery’s full,” he said.
Helm said 2015 has outdone even 2013, ticking all the right boxes across all varieties.
“If we get a better vintage than this, I’ll be very, very surprised. It’s a cracker, Helm said.
Like other winemakers across Australia, Helm struggled to process an unending stream of fruit.
“Our biggest problem was tanks,” he said.
At Lerida Estate on Lake George, Jim Lumbers said rain and warm weather in January set up conditions for bunch rot.
“But the rain stopped and the weather slowly got sunnier and sunnier. Despite forecasts of rain, the weather remained clear, he said.
Despite good yields and high fruit quality, the vintage became chaotic when everything ripened at once.
“We’ve had very late nights, our capacity has been stretched but coping. We’ve been picking and processing every day with no breaks,” he said.
While most winemakers were watching the weather to determine their harvest, Dr Dave Carpenter, Lark Hill winemaker, looked to the skies.
Carpenter, who has been operating the north-eastern winery for over two decades, has adapted biodynamic agricultural practices that relies on the moons cycle to determine harvesting schedules.
In biodynamic winemaking, the lunar cycle outlines four, three-day periods called flower day, fruit day, root day and leaf day.
Carpenter said grape picking to make vignoles, a white wine, was to be conducted in the middle of the fruit day period just a few days prior to a blood moon lunar eclipse.
“It is a full on style so fruit character is of the essence,” Carpenter said. We are at about a three quarter moon, so we are well away from unwelcome influences from a full moon.
We are away from an impending lunar eclipse and the moon’s influence is minimal. We see that as a way of ensuring that we have good concentration in the fruit.”