It’s often easy to forget that wine is simply the product of an agricultural crop, not some magical product that is man-made. Great wine must come from great fruit. There is nothing a winemaker can do to improve the quality of the fruit in the winery, believe me, many have tried over the years. All we really do is guide the fruit through the fermentation process, adding a tweak or two here and there.
Growing great grapes has more to do with mother nature than it does with the vigneron. We are at the mercy of what she chooses to serve up, and something as simple as too much wind or rain on the wrong day can drastically affect how the crop will turn out.
Each year we hope for a “perfect” season, one featuring rain at the right times, a slow increase in temperatures, no prolonged heat waves, no hail, no bushfires, long sunny days, and consistent overnight temperatures for even fruit ripening.
It’s not often you get one, more often than not, one or several of these things goes wrong and we do what we can to mitigate the damage or help the vines along with pruning or thinning, disease management, and watering techniques, but nothing can truly replace a good season.
Well, the vintage of 2021 was the best vintage I have seen in my long career in the wine industry, it was that mythical “perfect” season. The tonnage was high and the quality of the fruit of all varieties just outstanding.
Vintage is a puzzle with many moving parts – the availability of harvesters and grape bins, the transportation of the fruit to the winery, the space at the winery for the fruit to be received and processed promptly – each step crucial for a successful vintage. The trouble is, so they are for everyone else. Very few wine brands own all this equipment, not only is it extremely costly, but it sits unused for a majority of the year, so we like many others hire our harvesting and transportation equipment for each vintage. While we loosely book this in each year, you can never completely predict when the fruit will be ready for harvest, and each year we hope that it will be nicely spread out between us and our compatriots who also need the same equipment.
Well, this year the whole process from the machine harvesting of our ultra-clean fruit, the transportation to, and receival at, Gemtree Wine’s winery (at whose facility I make the wine) was the epitome of perfect coordination. This great flow continued the whole way through the winemaking process. Ferments behaved as I wanted them to, nothing stalled or got stuck, the flavours developed exactly as I had imagined they would, and the expressive freshness of the fruit translated beautifully into the wines.
Our 2021 white wines and rosé are now bottled, and I am delighted with all of them. They display all their varietal aromas and palate flavours in abundance – and I am especially enamoured with the Pinot Noir Rosé as all the aromas and palate of a classic pinot noir are prominent and I think it is one of the best I have ever made.
The reds are a while off yet as they are going through their maturation process in barrel, but when I looked at them on their way into oak, they were already exhibiting all the delightful qualities you would expect from such a superior vintage. While you will need to wait a while for these wines to hit the market, they will be well worth the wait.
Here’s hoping for another one like this next year (fingers crossed).