This was the second early harvest in a row and another good quality vintage. However there were some significant differences in the weather at the start and finish of this season compared to the last, that resulted in different wines.
The 2013 season began (in contrast to 2012) with excellent winter rainfall, with June delivering double the monthly average in both McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek, providing a great start for the vines.
The rains eased as spring arrived, in fact they almost stopped completely! Whilst this reduces the mildew pressure, we would prefer to have regular refreshing showers through spring. And the days became much warmer than usual by November. Despite this the flowering was quite successful thanks to the good subsoil moisture and so the scene was set for a decent-sized harvest, much to our delight.
The weather remained warmer and drier than usual throughout the summer, with some very hot days (>40oC) in late December and early January. We suffered some crop loss (5-10%) due to sunburnt berries from a particularly hot day on Friday 4th January (which topped 45oC in Adelaide and 42oC under our back verandah!).
The last week of January and first week of February turned cool, in similar fashion to 2012, giving some temporary relief. However unlike 2012 the hot weather soon returned from mid-late February, with warm nights as well as days.
This coincided with the start of our Grenache harvest, around 2 weeks ahead of usual. We began picking with BJs block on the 22nd of February. Things were moving fast in the vineyard and in the cellar, with warm grapes beginning ferment quickly and keeping us very busy.
Unusually hot weather in early March also brought the Shiraz on the 20 Rows block at Langhorne Creek to an early maturity and we harvested it all in 2 picks on the 7th and 10th. After finishing on Sunday 10th the pickers enjoyed a water fight in the early afternoon heat, to the amusement of onlookers. Langhorne Creek farmers are not used to seeing scantily clad youths chasing each other around the vines! The temperatures finally moderated from the 12th of March and we waited to harvest the Fruit Trees Cabernet until the 25th, in much milder weather conditions.
The sugar levels in all the grapes at maturity this year were high, resulting in wines that are rich, ripe and full of flavour, with a generous but well-structured personality. This fairly well describes the 2013 Eclipse and Reserve Shiraz.
It also makes me pause to reflect on the trend towards ‘light’ wines these days and whether we should be trying to conform...but our vines grow in a warm, sunny climate. They are old and low yielding, with little or no irrigation used. They naturally produce full bodied, generous, densely flavoured wines. So even if we wanted to make ‘light’ wine, it would be working against nature to do so. And on this subject, I think we should be careful not to accept ‘light’ as an excuse for lack of flavour. Whilst lighter bodied wines come naturally from cooler regions, to be of merit they still need to be well flavoured and the good ones are.
We seem to be losing flavour in our foods these days. Have you noticed how poorly flavoured a lot of our fruit and vegetables have become? Selected primarily for yield and appearance, the tomatoes, strawberries and nectarines offered in supermarkets are so lacking in flavour we usually won’t purchase them (but it’s very hard to do without tomatoes!). Flavour is what matters most!
The only bad news this year is that we have decided not to release a 2013 Reserve Cabernet. Despite possessing excellent body, the finished wine lacked a little of the tannin structure required for long term cellaring which we look for in the Reserve Cabernet. Instead we are releasing the 2013 Cabernet under the Twelve Hundred Hours label and I have no hesitation in recommending it for current – medium term drinking.
So that is the 2013 vintage story. It was a similar year to 2012 in many respects but the final stages of ripening occurred in quite different conditions and this is the key to the difference in the wines. Where 2012 turned cool from February and stayed cool for harvest, 2013 remained warm throughout. The character of the wines is reflected by this difference, the new vintage producing more generous, somewhat softer wines that will require less time in the cellar to bring out their best. We are very happy with the new wines and hope you will enjoy them too.
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