Vintage Perspective 2005
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Copyright © Ric Einstein 2009
The Big Picture
Last year, when I returned from my annual South Australian Trip, to put things in perspective, the first thing I produced was a “vintage update”. Having just returned from this year’s trip, it still seems appropriate, so in this article, I will provide the latest summarised information gained from talking with many winemakers.
Before I get to 2004 in South Australia, its worth taking time out and spending a few moments taking a macro view of the vintage conditions over the last few years. It provides an interesting ‘big picture’ perspective.
Last year, in the vintage update, I said, “Everyone knows that 1998 was regarded as a ripper of a vintage but there seems to be bit of concern that some of the big, blockbuster fruit forward wines may not last as long as predicted. If you have any of these in your cellar, a bit of caution may be warranted and some selective sampling may be a good idea.”
Everything I have heard from winemakers confirms this opinion. That does not mean all the 98’s in your cellar will fall over, but it does mean many will not improve and may have been best-consumed young when their fruit was rich and ripe.
Although not regarded as highly as 1998 at the time, a number of wineries have looked back at the development of their 1999 wines and are very happy with their progress. This vintage may be a bit of a sleeper. It was overshadowed by 1998, much like the 1991 vintage overshadowed 1990, but as we now know, 1991 turned out to be a great vintage in its own right. I am not saying 1999 was a great vintage, but there was some great wine produced.
agrees that 2000 was a dog of a
After the bad 2000 vintage, there was a lot of hype building over the 2001 vintage because the industry needed a boost. The year was very hot and harvests were the earliest on record in many vineyards. My initial advice last year, was to be very cautious about 2001 wines from Barossa and McLaren Vale. The more I try these wines, in general, the less I like them. A large number of the wines I tried from this vintage have been in the ultra-ripe category or are hot and alcoholic. Many of these wines will not cellar for long periods and will best been consumed within a few years of release. In my opinion, this vintage is one where picking carefully and hitting the peak drinking windows are critical. Do not get me wrong, there are some very good wines and some enjoyable wines; you just need to be careful. Coonawarra is looking good, but once again, we are dealing with very ripe fruit - just not as ripe as some other areas.
ago, after my trip to
The weather played havoc with 2003 and to make matters worse, drought didn’t help, so as you would expect, it was a very difficult vintage. Yields were way down in many areas, but almost without exception every producer I spoke to last year said, “We are happy with the quality of the grapes picked.”
A year later, many winemakers were not as enthusiastic about the wines produced. Some of the 2003’s I tried, both from finished wines and barrel samples, seemed hard or had loads of green characters. However, as usual, a fair number of the producers have defied the elements and produced some credible wine.
Now for the part you have all been waiting for, 2004 in McLaren Vale, Barossa and Clare. In many ways it was similar to 2002 but there were a few bumps in the road along the way to vintage. January was about the coolest on record. Two weeks of record heat in February followed and then things cooled down again to a long, slow ripening period. Interestingly enough at one winery I visited in McLaren Vale, they did their last crush on 12 May. That must be close to a record completion date for vintage in that area. The late ripening was not restricted to McLaren Vale either.
In McLaren Vale, many of the producers are very happy with the fruit they picked and feel the quality of fruit is close to that of 2002. However, there are a number of very unhappy growers out there. There are two reasons for that feeling. The first is there was a record crop. Grape prices plummeted and many growers have found it very difficult to sell their crop. It got to the stage that Barossa Cabernet could almost not be given away. To make matters even worse, there has been talk about one major winery not honouring growers’ contracts. The second reason is some of the growers that overcropped were caught with their trousers down - big time. For example, on 12 May there was fruit at Blewitt Springs at 12 beaume that was never going to ripen. Many of the good producers felt it was poetic justice for the greedy.
In the Barossa, it is a similar story but with a twist. Here we have some very credible producers (who are not into over hype) who are saying it is the best vintage since 1996. At the other extreme, there are comments from producers who are just as credible, expressing very serious concerns. Moreover, there was a range of comments with just about every possible variation in between those extremes. My feeling is that there will be some Barossa stunners from this vintage but a few ugly canines too.
of the producers I spoke to in Clare
were very happy with the quality of
There is going to be a river of good wines coming down the track, and I for one, have already spent far too much on the 02’s and, to make matters worse, they are only just staring to be released. However, like all vintages, there are some great wines and some disappointments, but with 02, your chances of being happy with the wines purchased is high.
Next week, (hopefully) the first Chapter of the 2004 South Australian Tour Diary and it promises to be the best yet.
Copyright © Ric Einstein 2004