Everyone knows it was a superb growing season through until December with just one early season blemish when some growers had to deal with some early downy mildew.
December delivered heatwaves in most regions. January likewise. February was a good month until the last week when most were hammered with another heatwave.
None of this should have come as a surprise. Extended heatwaves have become more common over the past decade. The term ‘compressed vintages’ is becoming more common and compressed vintages have caused furrowed brows in vineyards and wineries alike. The vines that have been so sorely tested through the conditions have become confused in many cases with baumé developments becoming unpredictable and irregular. Wineries have been confounded because they want baumés to achieve target before scheduling harvest.
This year’s succession of weather events and decision making has seen a sharp rise in the transition of furrowed brows to bad language. Harvesting crews are having to work dangerously long hours. Transport operators in many cases have reported similar frustrations. The compressed vintage is taking its toll with the yields generally down; shrivel levels generally up and baumés in many cases well ahead of target.
It’s time for Riverland winegrowers and winemakers to sit around the table and develop an agreed protocol for next year and beyond irrespective of differing views on the topic of climate change the trend towards compressed vintages is clear. No one has a solution albeit that some winemakers have managed to balance the risk better than others by scheduling some fruit ahead of target in anticipation of the compression and in consideration of the growers, harvesting crews, transport operators and winery processing staff.
Riverland Wine will discuss this matter at the April 1 meeting of growers and winemakers in the hope that this region can take a lead and develop a sensible strategic approach to what has become an annual challenge.