Heavy November rain in some of Australia’s leading wine regions has the 2016 vintage on track for a strong harvest.The Barossa and Clare valleys in South Australia received up to 80mm of much-needed rain last week – more than has fallen in the regions in the past two months.
Australia’s 2016 Vintage Promising
Barossa Grape and Wine Association viticultural development officer Nicki Robins said the rain, which ranged from about 1 to 2 inches in her region, had the vines booming.
“Things are looking really good, most people have just finished flowering so things are looking on track. It was certainly lovely to get that good bit of rain, it really helps a lot,” Robins said.
Things are on track for a very good season
“Because we had such a cold winter the vines went very dormant and then we had a few patches of heat which really made the vines push so the amount of canopy growth is quite good compared to the overall amount of rain we’ve had.”
Robins said while many vineyards were irrigated, good winter and spring rainfall was crucial. “You just can’t beat it,” he said.
“The vines are looking very healthy especially after the recent rain and there’s no disease pressure at the moment so things are looking really nice.”
The Barossa Valley produces world renowned brands such as Penfolds Grange, Jacob’s Creek and Wolf Blass. Harvest traditionally begins with the picking of white wine grapes in late January and finishes with the completion of red grape harvest in late march or early April.
South Australia Produces Half of Country’s Wine
South Australia is consistently responsible for almost 50 per cent of Australia’s annual production.
Clare Valley Wine Grape Growers Association President Troy van Dulken said vineyards in his region received between 2 and 3.3 inches of rain last week, which was “spot on timing”.
“We’ve had really solid early growth because of the warm spring and with the rain it couldn’t be better,” he said.
“The crop load this year is probably the best I’ve seen since 2010 so where looking at probably above average crops of all varieties throughout Clare at the moment.
“Things are on track for a very good season and it looks like we are tracking towards an early vintage at this stage in the early part of February if not the last week of January.”
Further south, the McLaren Vale and Coonawarra districts have received only about 15-20mm of rain in November but growers were still hopeful of a good season.
Coonawarra Grape & Wine Incorporated President Allen Jenkins said a warmer than average October had kept potentially damaging spring frosts in the region at bay this year.
Jenkins said the warm conditions had been perfect for flowering.
He said although the flowering season had come early, cool summer winds off the chilly Southern Ocean often meant harvest of the region’s Cabernet grapes was traditionally not until early April.
“It’s been a very nice start to the season – it’s been dry – but the lack of rain means that we’ve had no disease pressure.”
“The rain we had last week was just enough to freshen the vines a bit and settle the dust, it didn’t really have much impact.
“We’d be very happy like to see some good rain in early January just before the vines enter the ripening period.”
Early Harvest On The Way
McLaren Vale grape grower and winemaker James Hook, of DJ’s Growers and Lazy Ballerina wines, said the region was preparing for an early vintage.
“We are possibly going to be picking some grapes in January, which is much earlier than average,” he said.
He said dry conditions were unlikely to be detrimental to the harvest because the region had good access to water for irrigation.
However, he said growers would be hoping to avoid prolonged summer heat waves where temperatures topped 95 degrees for long periods.
“The mood is very optimistic,” he said. “People are seeing good potential yields at this stage.”