By Chief Viticulturist Bart Molony
& Chief Winemaker Virginia Willcock
As of 2021, our four vineyards are NASAA Certified Organic. The dedication to nourishing vine and soil health naturally has been vital to the successful growth of quality, balanced and disease-free fruit that has been self-resilient in a year of peculiar weather challenges.
It was a cool and wet start to the season through spring, with rainfall double the long term average in November. From the outset, intense programs of leaf plucking and biological controls to mitigate fungal disease risk were activated with military precision. This put us in a strong position for the predicted La Niña weather system (last experienced 2011 vintage). True to form, La Niña created a strong cyclone season in the north of Western Australia in February and early March, resulting in unusual warm and moist conditions for the south-west. Disease pressure from Botrytis was a major risk throughout the season that we proactively managed against. With judicious canopy management and a crop of thick-skinned grapes, we are pleased to say that fantastic quality fruit has been ripened and harvested with little-to-no disease in our vineyards.
After a fortunate hot and dry December and January, the Chardonnay harvest commenced 12 February. This was a week later than anticipated due to a rainfall incident in early February. This rainfall soaked deep into the soils which was actually great timing for the Cabernet Sauvignon to have a drink. Warm weather followed, ideal for the Chardonnay to achieve ripeness with good acidity and fruit weight, similar to 2017.
Most of the Chardonnay had been harvested before another ‘hold your breath’ moment, when a second rainfall incident in early March had us very nervous. The downfall was intense. Luckily the water ran off the ground to the waterways, so the fruit was barely impacted. We watched and waited for what would happen next, seeking sunny and breezy conditions to dry off the fruit to progress on with healthy ripening. Happily, these arrived soon enough and the balance of whites including Sauvignon Blanc - which is a stand out this season - were harvested in the following two weeks.
The Cabernet is ripening nicely and its harvest timing is expected to align with recent years. We are feeling good about it. Overall, yields are acceptable, however bunch weights from some sections of the vineyards are below expectation due to spring conditions.
Finally, a huge thank you to all those who chipped in to help pick grapes in 2021. We had a diverse team including stranded travellers, retirees wanting to help out, young locals on their gap year and our regular Afghan families who pick grapes and prune the vines each year. We truly appreciate your efforts in helping make 2021 a great vintage.