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Wayne Dutschke's Oogst Report 2009

Greetings Hans!

It’s not all doom and gloom. It’s bloody hot here in the Barossa again today (another 43 degree day today and 41 tomorrow), but 25 degrees forecast for all of next week and we hope a few more weeks of that to follow.

There’ll be some crop losses through to berry shrivel and some varieties have been hit worse than others. And some vineyards have been devastated.

Those in our neighbourhood not looking so good are Muscat Petit Grain (Frontignac), Riesling and the Grenache on the sandy soils.

Frontignac is being harvested this week. This is always an early variety especially when put to making Moscato. Frontignac is also a variety that is always subject to sunburn even in a normal year.

There are certainly some vineyards in the Barossa district that are suffering, as there just hasn’t been enough water available and the temperatures have been extreme.

Then there are some good news stories. Those vineyards that grow on more fertile soils and some that have been managed closely look good.

The vines look better than I would if I sat out in the heat as they have.

For example the Shiraz on the St Jakobi block in holding up extremely well. I went out into the vineyard expecting to see the worst and when I arrived in the vineyard I couldn’t believe what I saw. I rang Brenda from the vineyard with a huge smile on my face, as the vines looked so good. Very good in fact! There were only some basal leaves yellowing in the Shiraz and that was it.

It’s unfortunately not like this everywhere, but there are many good news stories.

These next couple of days could certainly take its toll on the already struggling vines.

One thing that I guess is not covered in a story like this is the fact that McLaren Vale is one region and there are of course many wine growing regions in Australia and then within each region there are many subregions.

It’s been hot everywhere here in South Australia and a good part of Victoria too, but as you’d expect some regions and even sub regions handle the heat better than others.

From what we hear it seems some parts of McLaren Vale are doing it tougher than some areas in the Barossa, but I haven’t been there to McLaren Vale to do the comparison. One thing that may contribute to this is the fact that McLaren Vale missed out on the heavy rain that fell in December. On the 12th and 13th of December the Barossa received 40-60mm of rain, around 80-100mm fell in Clare and McLaren Vale was around 20mm. So subsoil moisture levels may have been lower in McLaren Vale than in some other districts prior to the hot weather coming? It was an unusual weather pattern as the rain came from the North rather than the south.

I think rather than growers and winemakers (and especially journalists) right the Australian Vintage off at this early stage we should make a more accurate assessment once the cool change comes tomorrow and the vines have a chance to recover. Or even when the fruit is harvested. That way we can see the true damage. The vines do look stressed during this heat, but so does everyone.

We’re still around 2-3 weeks before harvesting reds and if conditions stay mild for the next few weeks we should still be in for some very good reds, though yields may be down through shrivelling.

Even though conditions are certainly tough, it disappoints me to read these dramatic stories, as there are of course some people who panic at situations like this, and this story does generalise and stories of disasters spread more rapidly and spread further than good news stories. Lets make a better assessment once the heat is over.

Sorry for the long story on the Vintage so far (even though it really hasn’t started here for us). As you have been reading this I hope I haven’t kept you from something more important.

Cheers! Wayne Dutschke

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