We experienced a lot of luck this year, although it eventually ran out.
In September the Valley – typically central and northern areas – were affected by harsh frosts. Where we are in the southern area, and on a slope, we’re very unlikely to experience frost though I heard some of our neighbours were mildly affected.
Then at the end of October, a massive hailstorm swept across Adelaide and the Barossa Valley. In Edinburgh the RAAF base copped a whack, with several aircraft damaged. Further north, in Tanunda and Angaston, entire shop fronts were smashed to pieces by hail, and the two main streets flooded with rain. Our favourite donut shop was closed for two weeks while repairing their glass frontage.
For us, our luck held. While it was the biggest hail I have ever seen, we found no real evidence of damage in the vineyard, or to our cars parked out in the open.
Each year, during spring, there is a windy patch in South Australia. Fetching our belongings from the vineyard can sometimes be a daily occurrence. However even with these strong stormy winds, we found only minor damage across the vineyard, where others had substantial crop losses.
Late February saw more storms and isolated hail, once again avoiding us.
Summer was classically dry, although uncharacteristically humid during January. The little air conditioner in our cellar struggled, creating a steady stream of water onto the boxes below, unbeknownst to us. Fortunately, while the cardboard boxes were ruined, the labelled wine inside survived unscathed.
This somewhat erratic growing season with unusual weather events turned out to be quite fruitful. Unfortunately, that’s where our luck started to run out.
The Chinese market closure was starting to bite the industry. Wineries operated as normal during 2021, with no one sure what was happening or how long it would last. By the time vintage 2022 rolled around, the closure was definite with no sign of ending.
Wineries were running out of space, with wine from 2021 and earlier taking up tanks and barrels and with no market to go to.
We weren’t able to sell any of our Shiraz grapes in 2022. We had a choice – follow our heads, and let the excess fruit rot, or follow our hearts and process it, hoping to find a solution down the track.
We followed our heart. When you’ve spent a season growing something, you want to see it put to use and not wasted.
During vintage 2022 many growers produced bulk wine. During vintage 2023, when faced with the same scenario, most growers left the fruit to rot. They couldn’t afford to produce more, and for many, they hadn’t sold the wine from 2022. Wineries were also struggling to make space for all this wine stuck in limbo. The most recent figures (September 2023) estimate an over supply of the equivalent of 2.8 billion bottles of Australian wine.
In previous years we have processed a few tonnes of fruit. Our 2021 Shiraz batch was 2 tonnes.
Vintage itself was fairly straightforward. Shiraz was harvested on the 17th of March. Grenache followed on the 5th of April. The fruit was handled in our normal manner – fermented on skins for 7 days, pressed to oak, the majority of it seasoned. Set aside to mature.