Sunday, 3 March 2013

Must I stand corrected on 2013 Hunter Valley vintage?

Yesterday I wrote a post lamenting the persistent rain over the last six weeks in the Hunter Valley and the impact on harvesting this years vintage.  I stand by much of what I said, even though it was based on only one detailed and written vintage and harvesting report and conversations over the last three weeks with several other wine makers.

But in reading my blog, one of the very prominent Hunter Valley wine makers felt I had overstated and misrepresented a number of key points, and I take notice of that and accept his input as another key source of information.  He was prepared for and believes he got a great vintage this year.  I also called several other prominent and smaller size wine makers to get more information.  I had limited data points yesterday and wanted to ensure I had more facts on which to base my statements.  The additional data points from my conversations today can be summarized as follows:
  • First and foremost, there will be some great wines from the 2013 Hunter vintage - I did not mean to give the impression the entire vintage was a total write-off!
  • The impact of the rain varied by vineyard and it is important to remember that vineyards in Broke, for example, are 30 km from vineyards in Pokolbin, and 45 - 50 km from vineyards in North Rothbury and Dalwood.  Therefore each vineyard will be impacted quite differently throughout the season
  • Another prominent vineyard was down about 30% in tonnage of grapes picked this year because of the weather, given credibility to a decent sampling of vineyards that were picking less due to the rain
  • Several vineyards reported much more botrytis this year, and not the good kind to make Semillon dessert wines!
  • Grapes like Chardonnay and Semillon that ripened and were picked earlier have had excellent results
  • Some prominent vineyards had a 'mixed bag' of quality based on when they picked and 'getting caught out' by having to pick at the wrong time.  Therefore, they are separating the batches and reserving the very best grapes for their select wines and considering what to do with the other grapes
  • The above point means that while there will still be some great wines from the 2013 vintage, the overall quality will be lower than the outstanding year it could have been had the heavens treated the wine makers more favorably
  • The best (and this usually means the biggest and and most experienced) wine makers suffered little as they (1) anticipated the rain patterns and dealt with them better than others, and (2) know what to do to put the grapes to best use once harvested
  • Some of the less mature and inexperienced vineyards and wine makers got caught out and suffered accordingly
I therefore probably did overstate (even though I mentioned I came to a figure intuitively) the financial loss from this years vintage due to rain.  It appears to be much smaller than I was 'guess-imating' in yesterday's post.  However, I still am of the opinion that the late rains have had an impact on the quantity and quality of Hunter Valley wines from the 2013 vintage, but my prominent wine maker friend is right in that I over-stated and put more fear into the buying public than I should have for the 2013 Hunter Valley vintage.

There will still be a number of great and great valued wines from this vintage, so as always, I hope you support the great wine makers from the Hunter Valley and buy what you can!  I certainly plan to!

Steve Shipley
Twitter: @shipleyaust
My other blog (on business, tech, world issues):  Steve Shouts Out!

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