The run-up to vintage this year has been strange in many ways.
After a cold and soaking December when we thought the rain and wind would never stop, January came and suddenly the sun blazed, the temperatures soared, the ground dried and the vines wilted.
Vines are highly tolerant plants, but only up to a point. When temperatures go over around 30 degrees, the vine metabolism starts to close down, and at around 35 degrees, activity stops almost completely so that there is no growth or development-just survival.
At Iona we had the driest January on record-almost no rain at all. We have always been reluctant to irrigate but we did open up the valves a few times in the early part of January while the fruit bunches were forming and the canopy was still shooting and delicate.
Even so, we were thrilled with the fruit development, which looked as promising as it has ever been. The Chardonnay in particular was interesting: heavy bunch load, and lovely, tight and well formed berries that were smaller than usual, which usually promises better flavours and aromas because of the changed ratio of skin to juice.
February brought more of the same: hot, dry and windy. For the first time since the vineyard was built, our dam faltered and our water supply was in danger. No rain to speak of. This made keeping the vines healthy more easy, but we maintained our spraying protocol carefully, and increased the foliar nutrient and trace element part of our spray mixes.
Then March: still hot and mostly dry, but cool and sometimes cold nights with good fresh night air flow through the vineyard from the slopes of Mt Victoria.
Vintage of our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay was on March 21, around a week or ten days before 2018; sugars were slightly lower than last year, but acids were well maintained and flavours were enticing. Shiraz is at least two weeks away. Volumes were OK despite the fact that in many of the surrounding vineyards, crops were 20-30 % down.
The Pinot and Chardonnay are almost through fermentation and are looking wonderfully fragrant and well-structured. This looks to us to be a very promising year. This is white knuckle time: so much work and energy has been devoted to getting everything to this stage in good shape - not far to go now!
A couple of new wines are about to be added to our range - they're crackers. Have a look at the site in a week or so. I can especially recommend the new "Summit" Cabernet from Wandin East - beautiful and will be gone in a flash.
Cheers from everyone at the vineyard!