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.

Key viticultural information available for winegrape businesses

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Key viticultural information available for winegrape businesses

The Wine Australia-funded Vineyards Census 2014–15, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, provides key insights into grape varieties, yields and water use in each of Australia’s 65 wine regions.
‘The importance of timely and accurate information to support informed decision making by grapegrowers and winemakers is a key plank of our Strategic Plan’, said Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark.
‘Winegrape businesses will be able to use the information from the Vineyards Census to better understand their business in relation to their region and other regions around the country’, he said.
The Vineyards Census shows that there has been a decline in vineyard plantings of 13,375 hectares over the three years since the last survey in 2012.
The mix of winegrapes grown has also changed. Red winegrape varieties now make up 64 per cent of the vineyard plantings (86,647 hectares) compared with 62 per cent in 2012.
The most planted red varieties are: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Grenache.
The most planted white varieties are: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Gris and Riesling.

Warm inland regions

Yields have increased in the warm inland regions of the Riverland, Riverina and Murray Darling/Swan Hill. In Riverina, yields have increased by 32 per cent compared with 2012.
However, there has been an overall decline in plantings of 4,521 hectares. The greatest decline in each of the three regions was plantings of Chardonnay.
In the Riverland, increasing yields have not resulted in a significant change in winemaking grape tonnes produced compared with 2012 because of the decline in plantings.
In Murray Darling/Swan Hill, plantings of Shiraz increased by 1 per cent and Semillon increased by 10 per cent, compared with 2012. 

Cool and temperate regions

Overall, yields have marginally decreased in the cool and temperate regions of Australia. Of the 10 largest regions, 2 had an increase in yield compared with 2012, with Coonawarra up 2 per cent and Adelaide Hills up 44 per cent.
There is not a uniform movement in plantings in the cool and temperate regions. Overall, the number of hectares has declined by 11 per cent. In Tasmania, plantings have grown by 14 per cent to 1,505 hectares since 2012.
In Langhorne Creek, plantings increased by 6 per cent to 5,368 hectares, with an increase in Shiraz of 12 per cent and an increase in Cabernet Sauvignon of 14 per cent since 2012. There has also been a small increase in plantings of Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc in Langhorne Creek.

In McLaren Vale, there was growth in less common varieties such as Grenache, Mataro and Tempranillo and plantings of Shiraz also increased by 1 per cent.

The Vineyard Census 2014–15 is available at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/1329.0.55.002?OpenDocument.