A tiny crop due to the ongoing drought, made worse by a really shocking heat wave in late January/early February which destroyed the crop on our old Grenache. The result is a very small vintage overall, with no Noon Eclipse being produced. The quality of what we did get however is excellent. The season began with below average autumn and winter rains, June being particularly dry. Then August provided some much needed rain and cause for optimism before budburst…. as we hadn’t received the winter rains to refill the clay subsoil, our hopes of a decent sized crop now lay with good rainfall in spring, as the vines began their growth cycle. It wasn’t to be unfortunately. In fact things got worse. September, October and November were terribly dry, leading to a very poor fruit set.
The old Grenache on our Winery Block (the backbone of our Eclipse) abandoned the crop almost entirely in order to conserve their resources….whilst the slightly more robust old vines on BJs block set a very small amount of fruit. The Langhorne Creek blocks were similarly affected, though not quite as acutely, with a small crop of Shiraz and Cabernet evident.
Interestingly the young Graciano set quite well despite the very dry conditions….youthful optimism, combined with a more efficient vascular system perhaps?
So we marched on into summer with these precious small crops. As always under these circumstances, the expectation of a high quality harvest was now uppermost in our minds, offering some compensation for the loss of yield.
The summer began well. December proved remarkably cool, with only a few days over 30C. This was ideal under the circumstances. Even the first part of the new year remained cooler than average, until a very hot day (over 40C) on the 13th resulted in some burnt leaves and fruit on the young vines.
And then towards the end of the month, we started hearing forecasts of extended very hot weather conditions…. 7 day outlooks of temperatures in the high 30’s to low 40’s. This was what had occurred the season before in March 2008 and it was the last thing we wanted in these very dry conditions…. The heat wave which occurred between the 26th of January and the 2nd of February produced some fierce heat, the hottest I have ever experienced here. Many of those days were well over 40C and the nights gave little respite for us or the vines.
On the night of Wednesday 28th January, following a shockingly hot day, the temperature did not drop below 33C… before soaring back into the 40’s again next day (it was the hottest night in Adelaide since records began in about 1880).
After this week of intense heat came three days of some relief on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of February, before a final blast of heat on the 6th and 7th, with the strong North winds ahead of the change on the 7th leading to the terrible bushfires which ravaged Victoria resulting in the tragic loss of so many lives (Black Saturday). My vineyard diary entry for 29 January (in the middle of the heat) says “V.v. hot now….The vines are fairing badly…..Yesterday evening, leaving the winery, I could smell cooked foliage in the hot evening air. Awful. This morning there is not a vine which doesn’t show some burnt leaves. Some are 80%+ affected. A few (of the young vines) have been completely burnt and I don’t expect them to live.” Then, on the 2nd of February, “bad news, all of the old vine fruit is now lost”.
The good news, for all of us, is that the Borrett Fruit Trees Cabernet and 20 Row Shiraz blocks at Langhorne Creek had come through much better. The maximum temperatures had not been quite as high on many days but crucially, the nights had not been as hot, so the vines were able to get a little relief before the next days’ heat. The result was only minor heat damage to the small crop.
There were no more heat waves this season thank goodness. We harvested the very small crop quite early, with Shiraz picked in one day on the 27th of February and concluding with the Cabernet on the 23rd of March. It was our smallest harvest for 24 years.
The quantities may be tiny but the wines look fabulous! They are pretty big as you would expect, with the small berries adding plenty of skin tannin and stuffing.
They have lovely aromas, the Shiraz possessing a note of violets this year and the Cabernet typically exuberant, with a fine tannin structure suggesting they should both mature beautifully in bottle.
They share many characteristics with the 2007 reds, though they also have an opulence that brings to mind 2005….perhaps a hypothetical blend of the two.
We hope you will enjoy them with family and friends, for many years to come!
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