Vintage conditions in 1990 were a winemakers ideal. The ripening season was long and very cool, resulting in full-bodied, intensely flavoured wines showing excellent varietal character, with very good cellaring potential.
The 1991 vintage was preceded by a dry growing season which resulted in lower than average yield, and an early vintage of short duration. The red wines show good colour and excellent varietal character, with good balance and structure. These wines showed an appealing drinkability when released, and are starting to look extremely attractive now they've had a few years in the cellar.
The 1992 vintage enjoyed a long, dry but cool ripening season resulting in a late harvest. Crop levels were about average. The red wines produced show exceptional colour and depth of flavour, with strong tannin structure to match. Shiraz was particularly successful. The white wines also show exceptional varietal flavour and good balance.
The 1993 vintage began very late after a cool, damp growing season. Warm weather then followed and harvest was of short duration. Yields were very low. The red wines produced were not as solid as some years, but they show exceptional fruit aromas with good balance and structure. More open than the 1992 vintage initially, with strong varietal fruit flavour and relatively approachable as young wines. Shaping up nicely in the cellar. Shiraz excellent.
The 1994 vintage produced record yields with almost all varieties. The red wines show an appealing balance with rich, round fruit character and good tannin structure. It also produced classy white wines, displaying fully developed varietal fruit flavour. The vintage began normally, but cool conditions made it quite protracted, continuing until early May with the picking of the Sangiovese.
The 1995 vintage was preceded by an extremely dry winter. Although there was a good fruit set, minimal summer rainfall ensured a low yielding crop. Cool, dry weather throughout the ripening period enabled the fruit to ripen slowly. The small berries produced wines with intense colour, rich fruit flavour, good structure and firm tannins.
The 1996 vintage was preceded by a cool dry summer. The vintage began on time in late February with two hot spells in the low to mid 30's bringing many of the grapes to full ripeness. The late ripening varieties like Grenache and Sangiovese were finally picked in mid to late April. Yields were moderately good with quality high. Red wines have balance with excellent depth of colour, distinct varietal flavours and good tannin.
Vintage was a long and drawn out but rewarding affair in 1997. The fruit ripened extremely slowly due to an exceptional heatwave in February, and then the second coolest March on record. Despite the delays, the white wines already released, show very good varietal flavours and balance. Although we expect the red wines not to be as solid as some vintages, the richness of the fruit and the balance of the tannins, should result in wines with good approachability while young, and the structure to mature in bottle.
We enjoyed good weather conditions during the 1998 vintage, ensuring excellent ripening of the fruit. The resultant wines show rich strong varietal fruit flavours.
Inclement weather during the flowering period meant a poor set resulting in low yields. McLaren Vale enjoyed warm weather during the 1999 vintage which ensured even ripening, leading to wines which display excellent elegant varietal characters.
A warm early spring meant early budburst for the 2000 vintage growing season. Late spring was cool and overcast during flowering, causing poor berry set which meant that many vineyards produced a very low yield. A hot January ensured rapid flavour and ripeness development, which resulted in an early start to vintage. The majority of our fruit was harvested within the first three weeks of February with promising flavour and balance.
Timing was fortunate, as late February saw an event unheard of in McLaren Vale at that time of year - 60mm of rain! Some berries split and there was threat of Botrytis. In out-lying districts birds became a pest. However the final two small vineyards supplying Coriole had to be picked not because of birds but to save the grapes from large numbers of bees sucking juice from each berry.
During the growing season for the 2001 vintage we have enjoyed warm weather with no rain to speak of. The early indications are extremely promising for both red and white wines, with excellent fruit flavours evident in the ferments. Interestingly, the red grapes seem to have produced intense flavour development at lower beaume's (ripeness levels) than they often show. Merlot is looking quite elegant with great bouquet. Shiraz and Cabernet are both showing excellent concentration in flavour and colour.
The 2002 vintage in McLaren Vale is a stunner despite lower than average yields in many of the vineyards.
Poor set on most varieties from the cool windy spring weather as well as lower fruitfulness from the previous spring have left many of McLaren Vale's vineyards with yields between 20% to 40% lower than average. Despite this decrease the wines to come from the 2002 vintage in McLaren Vale are looking to be outstanding.
The region has not seen Shiraz like the 2002 in recent history. The wines have great colour, structured tannins and the flavours and natural acidity makes for well-balanced wines, some of the best ever seen in McLaren Vale. The Whites from 2002 will be more aromatic than wines from warmer vintages. The miracle of the long dry autumn means that conditions have been ideal for late ripening varieties like Grenache which is exhibiting intense colours and can be compared with some of the best vintages in McLaren Vale.
All indications are that the wines from the 2002 vintage in McLaren Vale will be well-balanced wines that are approachable now but will develop beautifully with age.
Vintage conditions in 2003 were one of extremes with severe drought conditions until rain fell in early February. Rain caused some smaller berries to split, this also caused berries to shrivel resulting in a reduction of bunch weights. The steady breezes off the gulf of St Vincent left the vineyards free of powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis. Low crops caused baume levels to rise rapidly to 15/16 in a matter of weeks.
Winemakers comments focused on limited quantities but incredible flavour and colour particularly with Cabernet and Shiraz.
A longer than usual vintage attributed to cool conditions during ripening, producing quality white and red wines. Good winter and spring rainfall ensured good even budburst, enabling growers to maintain soil moisture and healthy canopies. A warm dry November saw rapid flowering, followed by good berry set and even veraison. Above average temperatures in February and dry conditions optimized fruit flavours, sugar and acid levels.
Crop levels were up on previous vintages with many younger vineyards coming into full production, adding to an increased yield.
Winemakers comments centered on sensational Cabernet Sauvignon and top end Shiraz, exhibiting great varietal flavours and aromas. Overall white varieties impressed with fruit harvested at lower baume's producing fantastic wines.
After a reasonably wet winter across the region the vines burst well with good early shoot growth. As a consequence there were large canopies which played a part in the faster-than-usual ripening period. McLaren Vale had a milder-than-usual summer with very few days of extreme temperatures, resulting in an excellent, even ripening period. Consequently, vintage started up to two weeks earlier with the first whites coming off very early in February.
Overall, wineries are reasonably pleased with the quality of the fruit and some have commented that the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are looking particularly good this year. Grenache was also of a very high standard. After last year's record crush (71,595 tonnes) and the current state of the market for some cool-climate varieties, this is a very welcome decrease.
While growers are reporting excellent grape quality so far this year in McLaren Vale, mixed weather conditions have provided some challenges. Heavy rains in Spring, a mild early summer, followed by a sustained bout of warm weather in late Feb/early March saw accelerated ripening over a week which resulted in frenetic harvesting activity.
Growers are also reporting a mixture of tonnages, with some saying crops are 20 to 30% lower than in 2005, while others have noted increased fruitfulness, fruit set and bunch weight.
Growers say outstanding varieties picked to date include Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache.
Initial winemaker reports are positive on the quality of the 2007 vintage in McLaren Vale despite the challenging growing conditions leading into the harvest season.
Dry and hot conditions early in the new-year resulted in an early start to vintage - three weeks earlier than 2006. The only relief from the dry conditions came in the form of a 50mm downpour on the 19th of January. Some dry vineyards experienced fruit splitting as a result, but the rain refreshed the majority of growers.
Shiraz and Grenache were the highlights of the McLaren Vale vintage, both having excellent ripeness at lower baumes. Shiraz has traditional McLaren Vale plum, chocolate and spice characters, and Grenache is rich, full flavoured and showing wonderful spice.
A record 15-day heatwave interrupted perfect vintage conditions in McLaren Vale in 2008 causing the most condensed harvest in the region's history. Vintage started in the first week of February, slightly earlier than average. Cool and dry conditions during berry ripening were conducive to excellent flavour, colour and phenolic development. All white varieties were picked prior to the start of the heatwave on March 3 and displayed strong varietal character and crisp acidity.
Much of the premium Shiraz was also off the vine with high natural acid due to the cool early summer and the large canopies.
By the end of March the bulk of the harvest was complete, which is exceptionally earlier than normal, with vintage normally persisting until the end of April.
The 2009 vintage in McLaren Vale was a "tale of two vales." A thirteen day heat wave in late January and early February meant a vintage that started early and ended late. What started out as a hot vintage finished with the hallmarks of memorable, cooler years.
Vintage started in the last week of January for whites and the first week of February for Shiraz. Cool and dry conditions during berry ripening in most of the district were conducive to excellent flavour, colour and phenolic development.
Cabernet Sauvignon excelled, as it usually does in the cool, mild ripening years. It has an amazing perfume, fragrance and balanced fruit weight, all the hallmarks of the award winning 2006 Cabernets. Shiraz produced a more medium-bodied style showing restraint and elegance, with lifted red berry aromas and spice.
The region's leading winemakers and grape growers are confident that the resulting 2009 McLaren Vale wines will be of the award winning standard the region has become known for.
The 2010 vintage commenced in early February. Winter and early spring rains brought welcome relief to the vines, topping up water tables and replenishing soil profiles after two sparse growing seasons. After the initial burst of heat the weather settled down and warm and stable growing conditions persisted right through to Easter.
The white wines show excellent vibrancy of youthful colour, intense fresh fruit flavours and seamless acid structure, with all parcels punching well above their weight. The reds show great vibrant colour and magnificent fruit concentration, with Shiraz the standout.
2010 is shaping up to be one of the best vintages for quality for a number of years in the Vale.