What Can We Expect From Australia’s 2013 Vintage?

June 2013

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of rugged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

My Country, Dorothy Mackellar’s 1904 poem about Australia’s ruthless landscape, has never seemed more apt. Following the decade-long drought that started in 2000 and the unprecedented wet vintage of 2011, Australia is once again returning to classic dry conditions.

The summer of 2012/13 was the hottest ever recorded. Fortunately, the heat wave in early January arrived in most regions prior to veraison, the time when grapes change colour and soften. Thereafter, days were generally hot (about 30 to 32ºC), but rarely searing (which, in Australia, is above 35 degrees). These may sound like extreme conditions but growers have largely adapted to them, especially in the warmer inland regions of South Australia and New South Wales, like the Riverland, Sunraysia and Riverina, where extreme temperatures are common year in, year out. However, the hot season has had more of an effect on producers in the cooler climates of Australia, such as Coonawarra, the Yarra and other parts of Victoria, and this year will likely see richer wines from these areas than is typical.

The result of this past summer is a generous vintage in a familiar style, with ripe fruit characters and plenty of weight on the palate. The current trend for fresher styles in both whites and reds, which are produced through a combination of more shade in vine canopies, earlier picking and careful winemaking, is far removed from some of the over-ripe, and over-oaked wines of the early 2000s.

Over the past five years, the strong Australian Dollar (AUD) has driven Australian producers to improve quality, as value in the UK has dropped – a challenge which they have risen to. The upshot of this is that Australian winemakers remain amongst the most innovative and customer-focussed in the world. Alongside a recent 10 per cent drop in the AUD against the GBP, this is sure to make lovers of Australian wine in the UK even happier.

Justin Knock, winemaking consultant at Encirc Wines

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