A Great Vintage.
Two thousand and seventeen was our third vintage at Wilimee and a strikingly different season to our previous two. Recognised by locals for its similarities to the 80's and 90's this vintage graced us with a cool elongated growing season. It was to be a great vintage and year to learn about our land.
We had our first wet winter. The natural spring flowed like a small river creating waterfalls and filling the dam and subsoils of the vineyard. Springtime continued in the same vein, with 191mm of rain in September alone. The ground water rose to the surface exactly where our two soil types intersect- the red cambrian and grey granite soil. Incidentally this was the exact spot we intended to put a tennis court one day......
Due to the aforementioned cold and rain bud burst was delayed until the 14th of October. At the same time last spring the vines had 3-4 leaves! The rest of spring was textbook- intermittent rains and sunshine. Flowering and the development of grape berries was 28 days behind the previous spring. Again proving the 2017 vintage was like that of the 80's and 90's.
As flowering was late, so too was the end of flowering, which coincided with Christmas and New Years. Driven by the possibility of joining family at the beach for New Years Eve, Sal and I worked day and night to get wires lifted (to control the foliage) before putting on the vital post flowering spray. This post flowering spray is crucial in protecting the newly formed grape berries from mildew.
On reflection growing grapes is either calm or frenetic. Pruning and tying down the canes needs to be completed on clear fine days in the winter before bud burst. Spraying needs to be timed to avoid wet and windy evenings, lifting wires occurs in collaboration with the growth of the vines, netting is laid out when the first berry changes colour and picking the grapes is based around flavours and sugar levels or baume. Timing is the critical factor to help determine the quality of the fruit. Get the timing wrong, and the grapes could be vastly different beasts- usually detrimental ones from disease or bird damage. More so than the previous two vintages the 2017 growing season was certainly testament to the "timing" factor. Humidity was a big player in 2017 and can ruin a vineyard in days. We had to be ready to wire lift and leaf pluck (to open up the canopy) or to spray to protect.
Continuing the growing season, January and February brought typical summer days, but unlike previous years, we had no heat spikes. Summer days never exceeded 37C. A cool March with a few showers kept the vines fresh and healthy, before picking on the 7th April only days before a downpour of 56mm of rain. We were glad that the vines were bare, getting a drink and that the Chardonnay was safely in barrique and Pinot Noir cold soaking in a fermenter.
After a great season with help from family, friends and Mikey (our backpacker) luck and diligence meant we got it pretty much spot on. The proof will be in the pudding.....
by Ben Ranken.