A warm, dry growing season producing a small crop (especially Grenache) of very flavourful wines with lovely balance due to impressive tannin structure. They look very good for drinking now and should be unusually long lived too. All of the wines are of very high quality. The Reserve Cabernet is probably our best ever.
The season in detail:
A dry start to the growing season. Below average winter rainfall, saved to some degree by a better August but not enough to get a flood at Langhorne Creek unfortunately.
The spring repeated this pattern, with a particularly dry September and a decent amount of rain falling only in November, too late to save the flowering. Our old Grenache at McLaren Vale fared the worst. Rae and I walked the vineyards about 2 weeks after flowering to discover most of the berries had failed to set. The die had been cast for a below average crop.
The summer started quite hot, turning very hot in late December (around Xmas) and staying that way for all of January. The hottest day we’ve ever experienced here occurred on 24 January, the temperature reaching 45.5 degrees under our back verandah. It was horrible for us and very hard on the vines which were dealing with a dry soil already. Fortunately, the nights weren’t as bad and this allowed some respite. With the harvest approaching we were blessed by much more moderate temperatures for most of February which was important to the quality of the 2019 vintage, retaining freshness in these big concentrated wines.
February finished with a hot spell and we began picking with the Almond Block Shiraz on a warm morning on the 25th. We were a little shocked to discover just how fast the small crop was suddenly ripening and we hurried to gather all of the McLaren Vale crop on BJ’s block, the Winery Block and the Almond Block over the next 5 days before the fruit became over-ripe. Our regular picking gang was in so much demand that we had to reach out to a (more expensive) alternative gang to help get everything off quickly. We managed to get it done, just in time and finished picking at McLaren Vale on 2nd March.
The Shiraz on the Borrett family 20 Rows block at Langhorne Creek was also carrying a smaller crop than usual which ripened early and was ready to harvest at the end of this hot spell, on March 4. We picked it all in the one day. The grapes looked lovely.
The weather turned cool straight after this and the Cabernet at Langhorne Creek took its time to ripen in the lovely autumn days which followed. By the end of March all of the Grenache and Shiraz in the winery vats had finished fermentation and we found ourselves waiting on the Cabernet.
The weather stayed mild and dry and on April 3 we picked the Fruit Trees block and then on April 17 we picked the Main Road block, completing the harvest.
This was a vintage of two parts, the rush of the early Grenache and Shiraz picking completed in quite hot weather at the start contrasting with the Cabernet harvest more than 6 weeks later in much milder conditions. It almost felt like two different vintages.
The quality of all the wines looks very high. They possess generous flavour combined with unusually rich tannin structure this year, providing great balance and the prospect of a long cellaring life. However, they taste lovely right now so you don’t have to wait!
Unfortunately, there is no Twelve Bells in 2019. We produce this easy drinking red blend based on Grenache and Shiraz, sometimes including a little Cabernet and Graciano in no fixed ratio, the proportions depending on the vintage and what the different blocks give each year. In 2019 there were no grapes available for this wine, the Grenache and Shiraz crops being much reduced by the drought and so for the first time ever we haven’t been able to produce any Twelve Bells this year.