Grapegrower & Winemaker - March 2017

What held up this year's harvest?

The 2017 vintage growing season has been challenging; a wet and cold spring season impacted on early shoot development and mild summer conditions, interrupted by regular rain events, has kept growers on their toes.

"Spring and early summer of this season have been a complete contrast to the previous season – the hottest on record in 15/16 and one of the coolest in 16/17," said Ian Macrae, CCW Co-operative Limited senior viticulture officer.

It's been a season of extreme, sometimes isolated, weather events - with some vineyards hit hard by storm and hail damage; others contending with floods; and some recording high temperatures. Despite all this, many growers are expecting it to be a season that delivers on both quality and quantity. In the latest edition of the Grapegrower & Winemaker, we asked a group of experts from around the country to comment on what impacted vintage this year and to give us an outlook on what to expect in the coming season.

The expert assessments included:

Marcel Essling, The Australian Wine Research Institute senior viticulturist, gives a national overview. "Generally, the season started cooler and wetter than recent years. Flooding and waterlogged soils in some regions made getting equipment into the vineyard difficult. Growers were forced to alter their spray plans and adapt to higher disease pressure.”

Colin Bell (AHA Viticulture director and viticulturist) contributes from Western Australia. "Following strong winter rainfall and resultant cold soils, early vine growth was slow, but fruitfulness was high.”

Mike Hayes (Symphony Hill viticulturist and winemaker) checks in from Queensland. "Berry size was down. Crop levels were up last year so vines normally have a respite, had a very nice skin to juice ratio.”

Marty Smith (Absolute Viticulture viticulturist) provides the Tasmania update. "Budburst was early for us this season (late August) with the above average temperatures over winter. This changed very quickly as a month of cold and windy weather after budburst stunted the vines considerably. We went from two weeks early to three weeks late by the time we got to flowering.”

Ian Macrae (CCW Co-operative Limited senior viticulture officer) reports from the Riverland. "Flowering occurred about two-to-three weeks later than recent seasons. At the time of flowering there were less leaves per shoot than in previous seasons i.e. flowering started at an earlier EL stage as assessed by the number of leaves per shoot.”

Andrew Mclean (Casella Family Brands grower liaison officer) looks across regions in SA, NSW and Victoria. "Whilst some of the late varieties in cooler regions may run the risk of senescing prior to desired sugar accumulation, overall yields look like they will be in line with long term average and prospective fruit quality looks to be very promising.”

You can read all the feedback from the experts here.