Harvest 2018: Australia

Our producers across Australia are reporting a fantastic vintage this year, with wines looking exceptional in terms of quality. A mild, dry spring and growing season meant that disease risk was low for most vineyards, although water management was critical. Some regions experienced minor rainstorms, but nothing too damaging. Many reported a long growing season, giving grapes the opportunity to ripen fully on the vine.

Bibendum buyer for Australia, Matt Smith, says “We have a gang of very happy producers who are excited about the results of the 2018 vintage, particularly for their red wines. The season clearly varied across this huge country but can broadly be categorised as a cooler, long, sunny ripening period without significant water or heat pressure. This has led to very fine reds showing great intensity and colour but also freshness and spice. Whites are generally generous and easy to enjoy without being fat or overly alcoholic. A very promising vintage indeed”.

Tim Adams Wines, Clare Valley

“Harvest 2018 has finally finished and it looks like another amazing vintage,” says Tim Adams Wines’ winemaker Brett Schutz.

“Good water management has been key,” says Brett. “We've come from a near-record 2016 water level of 800mm here in Clare, down to 480mm, and we've had a growing season that has been very dry. However, we have been careful about putting the water on at the right time, so we maintained appropriate crop levels and kept the canopies fresh and healthy, which has provided us with good-quality fruit at picking.

"We're really pleased with the preliminary look of our Shiraz, Cabernet, Riesling and Pinot Gris. The colours, tannins and flavours are all spot on. At this early stage we believe that the reds have excellent cellaring potential and the whites should age well too.”

Mount Langi Ghiran, Great Dividing Range, Victoria

After early concerns about a compressed vintage following the February heatwave at Mount Langi Ghiran, mild weather and cooler nights helped to keep the pace of ripening in check. Higher rainfall in previous years also meant that there was plenty of moisture for the vines in the soil reserves. As a result, canopies were healthy and there was no disease in the vineyard.

“Our other concern was the impact that the big November frost would have on our yields,” say viticulturist Damien Sheehan and winemaker Jess Robertson. “But it seems we have been fortunate enough to have emerged unscathed, with our vines beautifully balanced and carrying healthy bunches for harvesting.”

Overall yields are moderate to high this year, and the stand-out varieties to watch are Riesling and Shiraz.

What’s new for the 2018 wines from Mount Langi? “In the winery, our techniques and methods are constantly being considered and explored,” say Jess and Damien. “One method we are keenly exploring is partial carbonic maceration, whereby whole grapes are fermented in a rich carbon dioxide environment prior to de-stemming. The juice ferments inside the berry, leading to highly-aromatic wines. Our vineyards hold an array of delicate florals and spices, and we’re finding that this method is allowing us to elegantly highlight them. By only conducting partial carbonic maceration, we have been able to create structure around the perfume.”

Fraser Gallop Estate, Margaret River

A good amount of rainfall over the winter period (May to September) at Fraser Gallop helped with soil moisture levels and filled the dams for the upcoming vintage. Spring temperatures were ideal for flowering and fruit set. Temperatures during ripening were cooler than average, with no noticeable heat spikes, leading to “grapes with lovely fragrance, higher acidities and higher sugar levels than normal,” according to chief winemaker Clive Otto.

Pest control was helped this year by an abundance of red gum blossom. This meant that damage from Silvereye birds was at the lowest level ever seen, although nets were put in place just to be safe.

The 2018 overall heat load from November to March was moderate this year – lower than a hot vintage like 2011, but higher than the cool 2006. “This meant that those who were brave and allowed the reds to hang and ripen fully got the most out of getting the seeds and tannins ripe. It was noticeable this year how long the gap was between the earliest and the last reds to be picked.”

Xanadu, Margaret River

The growing season began with good, even budburst after average winter rainfall at Xanadu. A mild spring followed, which ensured that there was good flowering and fruit set. A moderate start to summer, with no heat extremes, set up the harvest well with white varieties offering great flavour intensity and bright acidity.

“There was an incredible display of Marri blossom (tagged as a once-in-a-generation ‘mega-blossom’), which meant bird pressure was practically non-existent while the whites were harvested,” says senior winemaker Glenn Goodall. “A minor rain event occurred in mid-March, which was followed by fine warm conditions that prevailed right through to the middle of April, allowing all red varieties to achieve great flavour and tannin ripeness.

“In summary 2018 will be remembered as an outstanding vintage!”

Battle of Bosworth, McLaren Vale

This harvest saw cool to moderate temperatures at Battle of Bosworth in the McLaren Vale. It was an incredibly dry season, with no rain at all during the harvest period. The resulting yields were average in size.

“2018 has turned out to be an exceptional vintage,” says owner Joch Bosworth. “We’re seeing amazing colours, intensity and balance in our reds. It’s been a very good vintage for the whites, too.”

Josef Chromy, Tasmania

“As others in the industry will attest, the 2018 vintage was one of the most extraordinary seasons,” says Josef Chromy senior winemaker Ockie Myburgh. “As Galileo so beautifully articulated, the sun definitely did its job this year, ripening those bunches of grapes with an assumption it had nothing better to do than to focus on Tasmania.”

As a result of the warm weather, harvest began a few weeks earlier at Josef Chromy. “And once it started, it did not stop for the next eight weeks… it was full on,” says Ockie.

Ockie is pleased with the way the wines are developing so far. “Everything appears to be going very well and the wines are looking vibrant and full of character. You should expect to see some impressive wines on the back of this vintage; quality wines that are intense, full of flavour and typically varietal. Based on what we’ve seen so far, 2018 is definitely going to be a vintage to watch.”

Spinifex, Barossa and Eden Valleys

The growing season started well for the Barossa and Eden Valleys, with close to average winter and spring rainfall that was critical for many of the regions’ old dry-grown vineyards. Temperatures throughout February, March and April were above average but the regions avoided any extreme heatwaves.

The temperate weather, coupled with lower-than-average rainfall and a mild end to the season, meant that these valleys have produced some exceptional reds. “Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache are of particular note, the hallmarks being deep, layered fruit and long, supple tannins,” says Spinifex owner Magali Gely.

“Whites, particularly Eden Valley Riesling, show good natural acids and fruit. Overall the 2018 is a lovely vintage, one that should rate within the top two or three in the preceding decade.”

Rieslingfreak, Clare Valley

“Wow, what a vintage it has been,” says winemaker John Hughes. “Mother Nature caused some stress in the vineyards, with a warm, dry spring and summer. At Rieslingfreak, we were very fortunate that all our growers had good access to water, allowing the vines to keep their leaves and protect the grapes against the sun.

“Often I refer to Riesling as either a ‘grape grower’s vintage’ or a ‘winemaker’s vintage’, and 2018 was definitely a winemaker’s vintage. Due to the warm weather conditions there were a number of things I changed throughout the winemaking for the 2018 Rieslings.

“Crops this year were slightly below average, meaning we were unable to make any No.6 or No.9. The advantage of a drier year, however, is the wines end up with more concentrated fruit flavours. You will see from our 2018 Rieslings that they are very generous in fruit, making them more approachable with or without food. I am really excited about the 2018 wines.”

For an overview of this year’s harvest in the Southern Hemisphere, and all our other country reports, see our map infographic.

Jess cut her teeth in the drinks industry throwing muddlers around behind the bar at Be At One. After a brief stint as an education journalist she found her way back to booze in the rather more sophisticated arena of wine, and was shown the ropes by the very best wine educators at Bibendum.

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