We’re quite excited about the 2016 vintage wines, which looked good from the start and continued to develop very well in barrel. They combine freshness with depth of flavour and a graceful balance which is very attractive. They should drink well right from release but provide good long term cellaring as well, thanks to that gracefulness.
The growing season was similar to 2015 in many respects – very dry and warm, producing another early harvest – but with cooler weather during the final stages of ripening distinguishing it from the preceding vintage and lending a degree of elegance to the wines.
Winter and spring rainfall was well below average, with June, July, September and October unusually dry. This is depressing because you know the summer is coming and worry for the health, even the survival of the plants. There was no natural flood on our vineyards at Langhorne Creek this year.
Suddenly in October (the middle month of spring and a period of rapid growth for the vines) it turned very warm. December was also well above average in temperature, with 10 days through the month over 36 Degrees. It seemed as though we were heading for another very warm, early, compacted harvest just like the last.
But temperatures eased after New Year and then significant rain (58mm at McLaren Vale) at the end of January and early February heralded a change in the season. Fortunately there was no further rain, which could have caused problems. Not enough rain/too much rain. It can change so quickly. We know the truth of being careful what you wish for!
Conditions were then close to ideal for the final stages of ripening in February and March, with mild sunny days and cool nights, maintaining a lovely freshness in the wines of this vintage.
The Grenache at McLaren Vale ripened early and we picked it on the 19th and the 25th of February, finishing at BJ’s block where the crop was reduced due to our winter re-training work. Then we picked the Shiraz at Langhorne Creek in 2 passes on the 9th and 21st of March. I clearly remember the second pick of Shiraz because it was a very cold start that morning. The temperature dropped to 8 degrees overnight and quite a heavy dew had formed. When we began picking at 7.30am, the vines were wet and soon we all had icy hands and wet clothes. Indi and Harper toughed it out with the rest of the picking gang and we rejoiced as the morning sun finally cleared some low clouds and shone down on us. The rest of the day was ideal. The cold grapes meant these vats were slow to start fermenting.
The last grapes to be picked as usual were the Cabernet, harvested on the 23rd, 29th and 31st of March. They were in perfect condition and also fermented quite slowly in the cool cellar.
The unexpected bonus was the relatively generous crop size this year, especially in the Shiraz block at Langhorne Creek. Normally if we don’t get a flood on this block in winter/early spring, we expect the vines to struggle and the yield to be small. For some reason this year the Shiraz block produced an above average sized crop despite the dry conditions. The Grenache at McLaren Vale and the Cabernet at Langhorne Creek yielded average sized crops which was also better than we were expecting.
Overall, we’re very happy with the results. The wines remind me somewhat of the 2006s or more recently the 2012s. But they are unique of course. We’d be happy to have another vintage 2016.
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