Despite the generally very low rainfall (and above average temperatures) the flowering in spring was quite successful due to a well timed rain period at the beginning of November, just before the flowering commenced. This led to a surprisingly good sized crop being set despite the dry conditions (I feel that it also had something to do with the vines compensating for the previous year’s very small crops in 2007). The grapes began ripening quickly and by February, with temperatures at last falling to below average, expectations of a good vintage were beginning to grow.
We commenced another early harvest on the 1st of March with BJ’s Grenache (unusual, in that we normally start with Shiraz) and 2 days later the extraordinary, record breaking March heat wave and the problems began. From the 3rd of March we experienced an unprecedented 14 days in a row with maximum temperatures of 35C or more, precipitating a chaotic harvest period where we began a race with the unrelenting heat to gather the rest of the crop before it shrivelled on the vines. We were only partially successful in this, eventually losing a lot of the Shiraz, the Winery East block of Grenache that we had earmarked for port and half of the Cabernet crop, which had raisined to the point of being unfermentable.
The picking was over by the 15th of March, just 2 weeks after we began. This very compacted harvest period brought a heavy workload in the winery, with lots of ferments needing cooling and endless vats to ram (manual plunging of the cap of skins back into the fermenting juice). We were fortunate to have our Alaskan friend Keith arrive in the middle of this period and stay to help with the heavy work (he claims he’s happy to have gone home fitter than when he arrived but I think he may be just being polite!). There was a certain glazed look in all of our eyes when it was over and I remember falling asleep at the dinner table on more than one occasion!
The results were: We had many excellent batches of Grenache, including one suitable for Solaire. Shiraz however was in short supply and Cabernet was the same. There was enough Shiraz to go with the Grenache we had for Eclipse but not enough to bottle a Reserve Shiraz and only a very small amount of (excellent quality) Cabernet. We decided to put this entirely to the Eclipse this year as there was not enough to offer around to everyone and it only enhanced the Eclipse wine. The outcome is a lovely 2008 Noon Eclipse characterized by ripe fruit aromas and a richness of structure which makes it delicious to drink straight away, as well as possessing the depth and tannin balance to mature nicely with further cellaring.
This softness and early drinkability of 2008 is in complete contrast to the 2007 reds released last year which demand some cellaring to be at their best. This is what makes wine always interesting……..it’s never the same from one year to the next.
We finished the 2008 vintage disappointed by the losses. Loss of what could have been ….. if only we could have got the crop off quicker……. if only there’d been a cool change in the middle of the heat to let the grapes recover. It was not a vintage which played into our hands but we accept that, you can’t win them all and fortunately we have a terrific Noon Eclipse out of it, a Solaire for the first time since 2004 and a great Twelve Bells for current drinking too, so it’s not all bad news by any means! We feel grateful for what we have.
We hope you will enjoy the wines!
“Up until the last minute, things had been going well. The weather began promisingly, with early opening rains back in April of 2007 giving hopes of a decent winter at last. It wasn’t to be, with the rains petering out in May, leading to a notably dry June to October period and another dry start to the new growing season.”
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