2019 McLaren Vale Wine Vintage Report

The McLaren Vale wine region relied on its advantage, natural and constructed, to have a successful vintage for 2019. Specifically, proximity to the moderating temperature influence of the Gulf St Vincent, reliable spring rainfall, and access to multiple irrigation sources and helped vineyards cope with a challenging dry and hot season.

The growing season rainfall from October to the end of March was 142mm, compared to the average of 172mm, the deficit in rain occurring during summer. The dry conditions posed significant challenges for local grape growers. A lack of summer rain meant the irrigation was important to make up for the shortfall. Using timely irrigation, firstly to develop a canopy large enough to sustain vineyard crops, then maintain the health of vines until harvest was vital.

Disease pressure (governed by rainfall, humidity and temperature) was very low for this vintage compared to the 2017 Vintage, our last season with above average rainfall, and other seasons with serious issues (1993 – downy mildew, 2011 - botrytis).  

There were two specific extreme weather events that did significantly alter vineyard development and ripening. Firstly, there was an intense hail storm in late November. The storm saw high speed winds buffet vines and hail fell leaving scars on some fruit. Then in late January we experienced our hottest daytime temperature since January 2009, 45oC, plus several days in late February where the temperatures were about 38oC.

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What was fruit like at harvest? Good, but there wasn’t as much of it as we’d like. At harvest vineyards in the McLaren Vale wine region generally had lower yields of fruit with more intense flavour. Vines had more open bunches, which weighed less than average.

The collective "we", the McLaren Vale grape and wine community, live and breathe our “big three” red varieties (Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon). Shiraz accounts for approximately 60% of our harvested tonnage. Cabernet Sauvignon is 19% and Grenache is 5%. Shiraz yields were significantly down, while Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache held better. For the second season in a row, our late season varieties (Mourvèdre, Montepulicano and Nero d’Avalo) held well until they were picked in late March.

Grape picking took just over 4 weeks to complete starting at full pace in the first week of March and ending at the end of the month. The report from winemakers on wine quality has been good, and winemaking was made easier by lower tonnages allowing for close attention the winery. Winemakers could use extended ferments if they required as there was little pressure to turn fruit into wineries compared to bumper years.

The combination of hail in November, a dry summer and hot weather in January and February is expected to reduce the overall size of our harvest compared to recent years. Crop yields expected to be 25% down on Vintage 2018, which in turn was 20% down on Vintage 2017 which was our last bumper crop.

James HookComment