The 2009 vintage is now complete and we can report that things look very positive. Weather conditions worked in our favour with good rainfall and no wind and hail damage during the Spring although the cool, moist weather did produce a curious event.
Occasionally we have seen small “Looper” caterpillars, so called because of the unusual way they curl up as they move. Their appearance in the vineyard is rare and they normally do very little damage, however Spring 2008 in Margaret River was ideal for them and they appeared in numbers not seen before.
Some producers in the region reported very serious losses, with some estimates running at over 50%. We experienced small infestations, limited to vines growing near eucalypt trees and estimate the yield reduction to have been less than 1%, so we were lucky.
Our regular and resident pests, birds and kangaroos, have also been kind to us. The Red Gum flowering was the best we’ve had for some time, so the Silvereyes spent most of their time chasing nectar from the blossoms rather than grapes. We applied our nets because as the flowering waned the birds began to do some harm in the vineyard but this was minimal. We also have a mob of kangaroos that have taken up near-permanent residence in our rehabilitated bush land, which is all very cute. However, they are also developing a taste for grape sand find it quite convenient to hop over into the vineyard and help themselves to some Cabernet Sauvignon takeaway!
The losses are only small but if this keeps up some improved fencing will be necessary!
Our temperatures have been very mild, with virtually no extreme heat during the growing season, with the weather station recording only 4 hours above 33C. This is unusual because in the very cool seasons of 2002 and 2006 we recorded 21 hours and 45 hours, respectively.
On the other hand, we have experienced significantly more hours in the 18-28C range, where grapevines are doing their best work, so the ripening has been steady, if slightly slow. In the end, the harvest date for all varieties is average, or slightly later.
Yields have varied, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc slightly above average but all the red varieties and Semillon are slightly down.
Quality is very pleasing indeed. The whites have benefited from the mild season and retained lifted, fresh fruit aromas in all varieties and they also exhibit terrific acidity on the palate. It’s much the same situation for the reds, with clear varietal characters and good colour and tannins. The Cabernet Sauvignon is very exciting, displaying the deep, complex fruit notes we saw in 1995 and 1975. Let’s hope we can turn this potential into good wine!
Margaret River Discovery Tours
Sean Blocksidge is the owner operator of the Margaret River Discovery Company, an avid photographer, blogger and South West WA ambassador. In 2010 he won Western Australian Guide of the Year and his tours have been rated the #1 thing to do in Australia on the Tripadvisor website for the past two years.