2004 has been a good vintage, providing both quantity and quality.
This was a relatively long, drawn out harvest. Picking began with Shiraz on the 17th March and concluded with Grenache for V.P. on the 27th April, six weeks later (a stark contrast to the 2003 harvest when the picking was all over in two weeks!).
The season began well with mild to warm, clear weather in late spring and early summer, resulting in a good flowering and set, producing bigger bunches (though not bigger berries) and the above average crops of 2004.
Unfortunately the clear weather resulted in one very cold night in early October when frost visited the 20 rows Shiraz vineyard at Langhorne Creek burning off most of the emerging shoot tips and reducing the eventual crop by around 20%. This was a very unusual event, being the first time a spring frost has bitten this vineyard since planting in the early 1960s. The result is less Reserve Shiraz than would otherwise have been the case but an increased intensity in the wine, confirming that every cloud (or frost) has a silver lining.
The summer was dry and warm until Saturday 8th February when we had an extremely hot and still day which resulted in sunburn in the drier parts of the vineyards. Then again on the following weekend it was even hotter, with temperatures in excess of 40°C, resulting in leaves dropping and sunburnt fruit in some parts. Sugar accumulation stopped temporarily as a result of the heat stress, delaying the start of harvest.
As autumn began, temperatures moderated and the fine weather remained, with no significant rainfall recorded between early January and the last week of March. March and April were warmer and drier than average and this was the secret to the success of 2004. The grapes slowly attained good levels of flavour and sugar in the ideal autumn conditions despite the slightly larger crops and delayed ripening due to the heat wave. The cool nights through March also resulted in the grapes retaining good levels of natural acidity.
At harvest, the Grenache crop on the old vines was above average on the Winery block but below average on BJ’s, overall up about 7%. The Fruit Trees Cabernet vineyard at Langhorne Creek also yielded about 10% more than average while the 20 rows Shiraz vineyard went against the trend, being down by about 18% due to that frost. This year we also had our first significant crop of fruit (2t) from the 4.5 acres of vines we planted between 1998 and 2001 on the site of an old almond and apricot orchard on the other side of our creek. These grapes (mostly Grenache) will be used for Twelve Bells (formerly House Red cleanskin) over the next 10 years or so until we are confident the quality is high enough, when they are intended for Eclipse. Including the grapes from the new vineyard, the overall harvest was up about 10% on average.
And so to the wines…. the 2004 Rosé turned out to be one of the best we’ve produced. The 2004 Eclipse also looks very successful, gaining weight as it matures, first in barrel and now in bottle. The Reserve Shiraz is looking solid and spicy (helped no doubt by nature’s crop thinning) and the Reserve Cabernet may be the wine of the vintage, being particularly dense and flavoursome. Solaire was harvested very late this year and the wine has a beautiful aroma and flavour combined with considerable finesse, as does the V.P.
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