2018 Vintage Report: warm season and early harvest beats out late rain

Growing season (Oct-Apr) data:

Rainfall (mm)

Season 17-18 16-17 15-16 14-15 13-14 12-13 11-12 10-11 09-10 08-09 07-08
October 44 42 26 35 105 69 110 40 63 70 88
November 7 118 21 55 67 33 87 29 53 11 28
December 25 44 31 29 36 82 113 25 49 91 74
January 49 52 70 3 48 43 76 76 114 7 16
February 143 53 17 36 23 69 36 11 17 121 29
March 63 62 19 41 71 95 111 85 45 35 39
April 98 139 48 84 172 35 70 103 7 37 98
Totals 429 510 232 283 522 426 603 369 348 372 372

 Growing Degree Days (heat units)

Season 17-18 16-17 15-16 14-15 13-14 12-13 11-12 10-11 09-10 08-09 07-08
October 104 93 85 75 100 75 85 63 86 102 112
November 154 146 118 117 152 88 120 166 146 186 176
December 255 186 187 190 225 232 189 268 220 247 241
January 337 215 264 255 191 230 210 262 266 290 324
February 259 211 299 187 204 186 165 254 264 244 255
March 217 181 221 199 145 175 140 180 215 163 233
April 101 100 106 125 123 119 79 67 141 100 127
Totals 1427 1132 1280 1148 1140 1105 988 1259 1338 1332 1396

Unlike 2017, the numbers really do tell the story of the 2018 growing season and vintage. The early part of the season was unremarkable, slightly dryer than normal and next to no frost events. Flowering conditions were perfect and, in the absence of strong winds, a potentially very large crop was set. December and January were the hottest of either month in the last ten years and with average rainfall keeping the vines ticking over, excitement was mounting that an outstanding, and large, vintage was in the offing.

February remained warm but, with three times average February rainfall and high humidity, we saw some crop losses to fungal infections (botrytis). Fortunately, March reverted to normal rainfall allowing the affected berries to dessicate and drop off, leaving the clean fruit to keep ripening. Temperatures in March continued the above average trend and it was clear that harvest would be early.

We started harvesting on the 17th of March (our earliest ever start) and finished with Home Block Chardonnay on the 5th of April (when we would normally be only just getting going!). The early finish was fortuitous as the rest of April was very wet. Quality-wise, the 2018 vintage is a significant step up on 2017 with ripeness at the higher end of the range and more expressive flavours. The February rain did knock the edge off phenolic ripeness so not quite the masterpiece we were hoping for earlier in the season but a very good vintage nonetheless. I’m expecting generous-fruited, juicy wines to characterise the 2018 vintage.

Cheers.

Here are the average harvest parameters for each variety:

Variety Brix pH  Acidity (g/l)
Chardonnay 23 3.4 6
Pinot Noir 25 3.5 7.5
Riesling 21 3.1 7.5

Roger Parkinson

July 2018

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