Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ironstone - McLaren Vale History - Part 7

Ironstone at Coriole Vineyards.This ironstone is typical of the sort which occurs at the north-east corner of the McLaren Vale, atop the Maslin Sands formation.
Ironstone is a sedimentary rock, similar to limestone, but it has iron minerals bled into it over millions of years. McLaren Vale is literally built on the stuff. Many of the McLaren Vale regions sturdy buildings are constructed out of ironstone that was quarried out of the ground in situ.

Olivers Taranga cellar door.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why phylloxera matters to me

South Australia is home to some of the oldest vines in the world. Uniquely these are planted on their own roots. Our state has a proud history of bio-security. I am worried that is about to change.

South Australia is in the process of changing the phylloxera regulations contained in the S.A. Plant Quarantine Standard to align with the National Phylloxera Management Protocol. Full adoption of the National Phylloxera Management Protocol may increase the risk to South Australia* from phylloxera. In parallel with the national protocol, new areas of Victorian vineyard have been surveyed to allow transport of grapes and vine material into South Australia, something which historically hasn't occurred since the Phylloxera Board was established.

Why the need for change?
Phylloxera has moved further in the last 10 years than it has in the last 100 years.
The phylloxera, a true gourmet, finds out the best vineyards and attaches itself to the best wines -
Cartoon from the Punch, Sept. 1890.
Phylloxera is the world's worst grapevine pest. It only takes one crawler to start an infection. This insect attacks grapevine roots, slowly causing a decline in vine health and ultimately killing the vine. Wineries also suffer as a whole raft of logistical expenses - bin cleaning, staff dedicated to paperwork, heat sheds - has to be borne.

Worse than the death of vineyards and the interruption to winemaking, phylloxera has a human toll. It causes financial chaos and ruins grape and wine businesses wherever it goes. Very few businesses are making a profit enough to absorb the cost of change in a future phylloxera infested South Australia. No one would argue that an infestation would be disastrous.

“We applaud Victoria’s efforts to survey its wine regions for phylloxera but we cannot accept the claims that these new interstate areas are phylloxera free ... As noted Phylloxera is a tricky problem that can take several years to be detected ... The surveys provide a guide only and are not a guarantee. Opening our border to free trade with these regions is not worth the risk with South Australia’s old vines.” Glen Harminson, Angaston
Chaos. Cost. Heartbreak. Loss. Dying vines.
If phylloxera was found in McLaren Vale tomorrow, it is likely, because there are no natural barriers like rivers, that the entire region would be declared a Phylloxera Infested Zone (PIZ). This declaration locks the region up and stops the transport of harvested grapes between McLaren Vale and other regions.

Imagine vintage without the ability to send fresh harvested grapes to the Barossa Valley? Would it affect your grape contract? Worse still imagine if the Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek or the Riverland was locked down? The wider wine industry would lose those regions processing capacity as they would be filled with local grapes that couldn't be processed ex-region. With no truck or bin transport without heat sterilization, how will transport businesses cope? Where are the heat shed to clean the trucks?

It is a nightmare scenario and one that I don't want to be a part of. My belief is to keep our 'old' S.A. Plant Quarantine Standard and if anything strengthen it up.
I have been asking tough questions of the Phylloxera Board.
Why should South Australia adopt the National Phylloxera Protocol? For over 100 years we have had a unique laws and protections. Can we have a higher standard than the National Protocol?  

How much risk is enough? It should be recognized that South Australian growers already accept a reasonable level of risk. For example machinery (including harvesters) from interstate are allowed entry after cleaning (and dis-infestation if coming from a Phylloxera Risk Zone or Infested Zone). Grape must & juice is allowed entry. Why should we take any more risk?

What responsibility will the Phylloxera Board or the South Australian Government accept in assisting affected growers if there is a phylloxera outbreak? It would be a disaster if this occurred due to these protocol changes. Grapes from new interstate Phylloxera Exclusion Zones like Bendigo/Heathcote, Geelong and the Pyrenees in central Victoria will be allowed entry into S.A. and this is a big new risk if these regions are not 100% phylloxera free.

Can we have confidence in the surveying of these regions? How good are the methods of detecting phylloxera? Page 16 of the Yarra Valley Case Study (on Phylloxera Board website) reports that surveys there appeared to have missed phylloxera in four instances. Can the Phylloxera Board provide confidence levels on the current National Protocol Survey for declaring areas pest free?

Are you confident that all of the phylloxera protocols are being practiced interstate? Is there any surveying maintenance regime in place for new Phylloxera Exclusion Zones (PEZs), to ensure the pest hasn’t crept in? Is there any surveying maintenance regime in place for the Phylloxera Infested Zones (PIZs), to ensure that the nearest phylloxera infestation remains at least 5km from the PIZ boundary?
Why change?  
There are too many questions and what if’s for me to be satisfied that harmonising S.A.'s regulations with the National Phylloxera Protocol have benefits that out weight the risks. I can't be comfortable because the National Protocol allows free, or less restricted movement of phylloxera risk vectors (grapes, grapevine cuttings/rootlings, machinery & personnel) from interstate than is currently, or was historically, allowed. It is debatable if this potential increase in risk is significant, or only slight, but any risk is not worth it.

South Australia (Sunraysia and Mildura) have kept phylloxera out for over one hundred years. Let's not let that falter.

*South Australia, Mildura and Sunraysia historically have no phylloxera prior to establishment of PEZ regions.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Australian Ballet Company visits Lazy Ballerina.

What does the Australian Ballet Company, in Adelaide performing 'Romeo and Juliet,' do when they have some time off? They go visit Lazy Ballerina.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bushing Festival - McLaren Vale History - Part 6

"I know he is a king, but she is out of his league."

The McLaren Vale Wine Bushing Festival began in 1973. Its traditions were taken from medieval times when Tavern owners would place ivy bushes above their tavern doors to celebrate the arrival of the new vintage wine, or fresh mead. In the early 1970’s, McLaren Vale’s winemakers incorporated this symbol to 'ring in' the new vintage by hanging olive branches over their cellar doors.

As part of the Festival, the winemaker who achieves the highest points for an entry in the McLaren Vale Wine Show is named Bushing King or Queen.

Early festivals had a decidedly medieval theme with costumed events and such social activities like the 'Swains & Wenches Disco'.

The Bushing festival also featured a parade down the main street of the town.

Through to the 1960s the region struggled and went into decline apart from the Hardys which was on its corporate road to domination of the national wine industry. The local demand switched to cheap sherries and ports and the English export market dried up. Much of the dry table wine was blended to liven up wine from other regions. 

Southern Vales Programme. Note that lots of the  activity takes place around Reynella which is now an urban area. Wineries featured include Trennet's, St Vincent, Dridan and Akeringa.

The turning point came during the 1970's as the Southern Vales were in a good position, both geographically and in terms of the people involved in the local industry, to take advantage of the quality table wine revival of the 1970s.
1983 Poster Design.

Come out 85
The graphics used in the posters reflect the vibrancy of the region in the early to mid 1980's. The Southern Vales were experiencing a renaissance with the development of new wineries and the beginnings of a food culture movement. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Names - McLaren Vale History - Part 5

Originally the area which we now call the McLaren Vale Wine Region had many different names, one for each of the hamlets or groupings of farms that were settled in the 1800 and 1900’s. Overtime these names have been swallowed up into the towns we now call McLaren Vale, McLaren Flat and Willunga, but for those with a sense of history they live on if you look closely.

View McLaren Vale Historic Names in a larger map

What is in a name? Click on the map to find out more.

One hamlet has survived with its own postcode almost into the present day. Landcross Farm, which had its own postcode, 5170, until recently centered on and named after the farm property which has been rejuvenated by Paxton Wines.

A few of the original settlement names have been merged into common postcodes but survived as map or service addresses. Whites Valley and Willunga South, which are both part of the Willunga postcode 5172, live on as utility addresses. Tatachilla also remains in common usage both as an address, winery brand and school, despite being swallowed by the McLaren Vale.

Some names live on as business names, Hillside formerly near McLaren Flat, lives on as Hillside Haulage the Sullivan families freight business. Taranga, which was the southern section of a farm established by William and Elizabeth Oliver when they settled in 1841, lives on in several business and property names.

Others names have fallen out of general use and remain as property names, like Bethany or Beltunga. Some have fallen out of usage entirely like Gloucester.

Why this happened makes an interesting story.

The first amalgamation of names was due to a natural increase in population. As settlers arrived in the area hamlets merged together to form towns.

Originally the region was survey in 1839 by a party led by John McLaren. McLaren was appointed as Senior Surveyor was given the task of surveying the southern districts of Adelaide. McLaren divided up the south of Adelaide into three districts - B, C and D to be released to the settlers in stages. Section C included all the land south of the Onkaparinga River to Willunga Hill as was released from 1840.

McLaren Vale was the general name for the wide valley south of the Onkaparinga Gorge. The township of McLaren Vale originally consisted of 2 small villages; Gloucester, a triangle between the Salopean Inn and Kangrilla road, established in 1851 and Bellevue, where The Barn and Limeburners stand, established in 1854.

Both small towns had a unique character. In 1841 two of the early settlers were Devonshire farmers, William Colton and Charles Hewitt. The farmers bought workmen with them and established neighbouring farms, Daringa and Oxenberry Farm. These farms formed the nucleus of the hamlet Gloucester. Daringa and Oxenberry live on as cellar doors on Kangarilla Rd.

Bellevue, to the north, began on land purchased by Richard Bell at settlement who built a little colony of thatched pug houses. He also built a hotel in 1857 and named it the Clifton in honour of his wife, nee Clift. Ellen Street also bore her name until recent years, but is now retitled as part of Chalk Hill Road. Ellen Street lives on as a wine made by Mark Maxwell. The Clifton Hotel is the Hotel McLaren.

The Gloucester and Bellevue towns grew together so that by 1923 McLaren Vale was gazetted by the Lands Office as a private town. In that year Mr CE Pridmore, situated half way between Bellevue and Gloucester at Sylvan Park, applied for a transfer of the portion of section 156 in the township McLaren Vale. All previous transactions for that locality were designated as in the township of Gloucester in the McLaren Vale (or Valley).

Approximately 4 kilometres to the southeast of these towns in the McLaren Vale was Wesleyan chapel was opened in 1854 and was given the name Bethany Chapel. Other cottages were established which gave rise to Bethany the hamlet. Later Bethany was also home to the first illuminated tennis courts which can still be seen on McMurtrie Road. 

Bethany Chapel c. 1990 prior to renovation.

I have always assumed Wirra Wirra’s Church Block wine is named after the chapel as Wirra Wirra's vineyards sit directly opposite. Can anyone confirm this?

North of Bethany is the town of McLaren Flat. McLaren Flat had the satellite villages, or hamlets, Hillside which was located west towards Kangarilla and Beltunga, to the north whose houses were mostly built at the instigation of Richard Bell, founder of Bellevue.

Blewitt Springs was further north and consisted of a series of sandy ridges linked by roads that ran in between. It has maintained its ‘independence’ on maps and as a street address although shares McLaren Flat’s telephone exchange and the greater 5171 postcode.

Bush Grenache vines at Paxton Wines - Landcross Farm.
Traveling back towards the McLaren Vale township was known as Seaview. Sir Samuel Way’s 1870’s farm called Sea View lent its name to a Seaview hamlet complete with a chapel built in 1880’s, now the cellar door for Chapel Hill Wines. Sir Samuel in turn lent his name to Justin McNamee’s Samuels Gorge winery now based in the former Sea View blacksmith’s and olive press house.

Along the road back down the hill to the McLaren Townships, George Manning established Hope Farm in 1851, which was turned into a winery over the years. The winery was renamed Seaview in 1951 by its new owners, Mr Edwards and Chaffey. The names Seaview and Edwards & Chaffey live on a wine brands.
A look back in time... Chapel Vale, now Chapel Hill, circa 1973

Around the town of Willunga were Willunga South where the slate mines were grouped and Whites Valley which lay on the direct road to Port Willunga to the north of Aldinga. The Whites Valley village was centered on Adey Rd, Aldinga Rd and Little Rd. Several historic building remain. Some have been restored while some of the farm houses and mills have fallen into ruin.

Olivers Taranga in the 1990's.
I have been told that the Sellicks Hills, part of the Mount Lofty Ranges, which stare down on Whites Valley, were once known as the Front Hills, and are marked as such on some old maps. I haven’t seen these, but I believe it possible this name was then corrupted to be called foothills. Foothills are dryly defined as gradual increases in hilly areas at the base of a mountain range.

We get the sub-regional name Sellicks Foothills from this, but Front Hills has a ring to it in my opinion and might warrant a comeback.

Postcodes were introduced in Australia in 1967 by the Postmaster-General's Department (PMG), the predecessor of Australia Post. At this point many of the smaller regional names were swallowed up. Landcross Farm survived with a fresh postcode but Tatachilla, McLaren Flat, Blewitt Springs, and remnants Hillside, Beltunga and Bethany were all merged into McLaren Vale 5171. Willunga 5172 took over Willunga South and Whites Valley. Willunga Post Office also had responsibilities for Hope Forest, The Range, Dingabledinga, Montarra (where Lazy Ballerina the cellar door is located across from the southern tip of Kuitpo Forest) and Kuitpo.

What is in a name? A lot of the history of this region.

 Wine Fight Club June 09

If you know more to these stories please comment below. It is worthwhile checking out Oliver Taranga's Cellar Door to see their old map of the region. Also the main source for this article is the great book - McLaren Vale: Sea and Vines - Barbara Santich.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sustainable Farming - Now, Now, Now.

Could the McLaren Vale region be one big sustainable food basket?

Standard farming practice c. 1970.
With the launch of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, James Hook argues the answer has to be yes.  

If McLaren Vale has a future as a farming region it must embrace sustainable farming.

The recently launched Sustainable Winegrowing Australia programme gives the region a vehicle to do just that.

Why? We needs to produce products that attract premium prices to be financially sustainable. Why? Farming needs to act as a steward for the region and protect the area from the perils of urbanization. 

The widespread adoption sustainable, high quality farming taking the best from organic and/or biodynamic techniques will maintain the vitality of the region and give McLaren Vale producers a sustained competitive advantage in their winemaking. This will allow higher prices for grapes which increases the value of the land, which decreases the pressure to put in housing.

I feel the way to do this is to adopt sustainable farming as a code of practice for the whole district, as an industry and as a community to challenge ourselves and reap the benefits.

Reduced demand, lower wine grape prices and diminishing profit margins mean production of high quality fruit in McLaren Vale has become vital for winegrowers. For ill or good the strength and growth in the wine industry has greatly contributed to the region. The future of the grape growing and winemaking and the future of the area are intertwined. At present there is an oversupply of C grade fruit in the region, fruit that is made into wine in the $10-15 dollar per bottle range. There is high demand for A grade fruit which produces wine above $25 per bottle. It is at these quality levels that the majority of viticultural businesses need to be producing to be profitable. Conventional agriculture has not given us that with much of our fruit falling below the top grades. 

The McLaren Vale Sustainable Winegrowing Australia launch, held at the Bocce Club, was a huge success with more than 100 grapegrowers in attendance.

What we describe as conventional agriculture is a recent trend. With the appearance of cheap mineral fertilisers and pesticides in the early 1950s, farmers quickly abandoned traditional or organic methods of farming and became heavily dependent on both agrochemicals and labour-saving machinery. Farmers discontinued organic methods not because they did not work but because they could not compete with the new type of agriculture.

Accepted practice viewed organic farming as inefficient. The race was to grow the most, not to grow in the most sustainable way. Grape growers received similar prices whether they grew 5 tonnes to the hectare or 15 tonnes. The emphasis was big is better. In spite of this, organic farming was pioneered because many local growers looked for ways to reduce the amount of fertilisers and pesticides they were using.

Blewitt Springs McLaren Vale.

Enter the modern concept of sustainable farming. Not a return to the past, rather a marriage of scientific advances with traditional practices.

In the McLaren Vale wine industry, Battle of Bosworth, Rino and Greta Ozzella at Grancari Estate and many others certified their vineyard organic. Unsung growers like the late Modestino Piombo developed a successful vineyard at Sellicks Hill with little more than a dodge plow and wettable sulphur. Recently Paxton viticulture have successfully converted significant amounts of vineyard to BioDynamics, an organic system with soil as the key factor in farming, and sustainability as the goal. The Leask family, Paxton Wines and Gemtree wines have all converted vineyards to this system.

Following the lead of these pioneers elements of the organic and biodynamic philosophy have been starting catch on with mainstream grape growers.

The pioneers were concerned, above all else, about the soil beneath their feet. Organic and Biodynamic philosophy is centred on practices designed to improve the richness and stability of the soil by restoring its organic matter and avoiding synthetic chemicals.

Not surprisingly this commitment to soil balance also has a flow on effect to wine quality. Many of the characteristics of a well maintained organic or biodynamic vineyard have the same traits of vineyards that achieve A grade results. This is particularly the case with McLaren Vale staples Shiraz and Grenache. They have moderate vigour, develop open canopies, catch a good deal of sunlight, have thicker skins, are not over fertilised and have balanced soil.
Brad Cameron driving pick up for his families vineyard.

McLaren Vale has many advantages that make sustainable wine production a reality. The area has creek lines and roadsides that can be re-vegetated to offset farming energy demands and electrical power can be generated from shed and winery roof space. McLaren Vale’s soils are perfect for farming and we have a ready supply of organic fertilisers from Adelaide’s waste and animal farming nearby.

Currently 40% of the grape growers water needs are filled by reclaimed water from Adelaide with plans ahead to increase this, and the balance of water comes from underground sources which are carefully monitored to make sure are healthy.

Pastures grow well in between our vine rows stopping soil erosion.

Mechanical weeding or new plant based herbicides can control weeds where they are not needed.

Bush Vine Grenache at Paxton Wines.
McLaren Vale has relatively low risk of disease affecting yield and quality. Powdery Mildew is a slow creeping disease that is limited by sunlight. Open canopies that let sunlight into the fruit zone inhibit its growth naturally; these same open canopies have the advantage of suiting A grade red wine production. Organically registered products like sulphur are effective in controlling the disease.

Downy Mildew is a rare occurrence in the district with the last significant outbreak in 1992. Downy Mildew needs wet summers where significant rain occurs in November and December. Wet summers are infrequent. When the next wet summer comes with increased knowledge about the disease, I believe with the correct timing, grape growers can use copper as an emergency measure to limit Downy’s effects and still meet organic requirements. Botrytis is a hit and miss problem. A grade red varieties with tough skins will always fair better than those which are pumped up and weak skinned. Nature is clever like that.

The pioneers have showed the district how. Organic practices use cheap and locally available resources. Vineyards are being successfully farmed avoiding factors over which farmers have little control: mineral fertilisers and synthetic pesticides. The opportunity is here to make the region the centre of sustainable grape growing.

I feel adopting organic practices on a wide scale represents an effective way to reduce the oversupply of C grade fruit and promote more fruit into the A grade. Is organic certification, or whole hearted Biodynamics in its pure form the solution, maybe not? However the concept of widespread semi-organics by adopting organic techniques to increase soil health, decrease the use of unnecessary farm inputs and push towards sustainability is attainable and attractive.

The Pines by Horace Trennery. c. 1940.
I am not suggesting we change the world, just look at what is happening in the region and see where we fit into it. The scientist in me tells me this is possible. It is all practical and we have made a reasonable start, now is the time to keep striving.

The Cult of Personality - History of McLaren Vale - Part 4.

There was a time in Southern Vales where there were no cellar doors. Up until the 1970's wineries did not sell direct to the public or undertake direct tourism. One of the first cellar doors in McLaren Vale was started by Enzo Berlingieri as Settlement Wines in the 1970's.

"In 1984 the most flamboyant figure in McLaren Vale, Vincenzo Berlingieri, purchased Oliverhill with, as usual, grand schemes in mind." Oliverhill Wines- Excerpt from "The Australian Wine Compendium" 1985 Edition by James Halliday

"Old times... good times... when dirty ashtrays were a socially acceptable part of the whole cellar door experience", says Enzo's daughter Annika, "As well as tops off Fridays."

Wayne Thomas was a McLaren Vale veteran, having started his winemaking career in 1961, working for Stonyfell, Ryecroft and Saltram before establishing a cellar door at Fern Hill with his late wife Pat in ’75.

Fern Hill in 1984.
When they sold Fern Hill in 1994 they started again, launching the Wayne Thomas Wines label, using grapes sourced from growers throughout McLaren Vale.

Wayne Thomas passed away in April 2007.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Helping McLaren Vale farm ; After we are gone.

Already recognised as one of the world’s most sustainable viticultural regions, McLaren Vale has strengthen its sustainability status after region launched the world leading McLaren Vale Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, 'Sustainable Winegrowing' for short, Tuesday night.

We are really proud to have been a part of a great collaborative, open, forward looking program.
In 2005 when Lazy Ballerina's proprietor James Hook was working for MVGWTA he developed the outline of a self-assessment system for grape growers. Over the last 7 years this as developed into a system for growers to assess their operations and gain sustainable certification.

James authored the first two chapters of Sustainable Winegrowing which were peer reviewed by Dr Mike McCarthy and Dr Trevor Wicks respectively.

“Sustainable Winegrowing is the first program of its kind in Australia and we expect other regions will follow our lead and adopt the program, tailoring it to their region,” MVGWTA Chair Peter Hayes said.

“The program embraces the triple bottom line approach relating to economic, social and environmental considerations and is independent of farming systems, meaning conventional, organic and biodynamic grapegrowers alike can benefit from participating.”


Above - The launch, held at the Bocce Club, was a huge success with more than 100 people in attendance.


Above - Chester Osborne - d'Arenberg Wines, Stephen Strachan - WFA and Peter Hayes, MVGWTA.

For more information check out

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Vale Cru - April 15th


2009 Pinot Noir - New Release!

This is one of our most exciting releases. Pinot noir, one of the most difficult wines to make well, is a darling among many wine lovers, most of whom know the drama behind the scenes that goes into its creation.
André Tchelistcheff declared that "God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot noir."   The reason for this is it much less tolerant of hard, windy, hot and dry, harsh vineyard conditions than the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or Grenache. It also has thin skins which makes it prone to disease in wet years. Therefore it likes neither wet, or hot conditons. Pinot needs it just right.
In the bottle Pinot can change from bench reserve to stalwart center-half forward without warning (and similar lose form, vice versa), and at its best is exalted as one of the greatest of all wines.
Ours is out now!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

McLaren Vale Vintage Report - Part 3

Harvest weather conditions, with cool nights but warm days, have been ideal for grape development. In response to this vineyards have typically developed 2 weeks earlier than normal. The 2012 vintage has been one of the most condensed seen in McLaren Vale with crushing expected to be completed by the 25th March compared with April in 2011. Indeed some wineries have already finished crushing for the year and are working on pressing out their wine. At this early stage the wine quality is looking very promising with the reds having excellent colour and flavour.

Above - Cabernet Sauvignon being machine harvested at Paxton Vineyard’s Jones Block.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

McLaren Vale Vintage Report - Part 2.

Around the district grape harvesting is continuing at pace. Shiraz from Blewitt Springs and Clarendon, plus Cabernet Sauvignon is being crushed this week. Mourvèdre from the Sellicks Foothill is also ripe. The trend of low vineyard yields producing fantastic quality juice in the winery is continuing. Expectations are high that McLaren Vale will produce another classic vintage.
The cloud streaked view from Samuel's Gorge.
“Harvest has been perfectly timed, with cool weather conditions for maturing grapes,” says Bradley Cameron, who has spent the harvest driving tractor pick up in his family’s vineyards. “Red grapes have been looking really dark in the picking bins. That is always a good sign.”
Grapes at the Patritti Wines crusher.
The vintage has not been without one dramatic turn. The McLaren Vale region received its average seasonal rainfall, all on one day. Moist air drawn down from the north west of Australia saw 60mm of rain recorded on the last day of summer.  The rain event on Wednesday the 29th of February put nerves on edge but miraculously the teeming skies only caused a minor to pause in picking. Fortunately the district’s famous winds picked up after the rain and quickly dried vineyards out.
The creek at Whites Valley (near Willunga) running during the downpour.
Once the puddles had dispersed tractors returned to work and wineries were able to restart picking within 48 hours. Bunches on the vine did not split and minimal late season disease has been seen as a consequence.
A good hay harvest is a good omen for a successful grape vintage.
It is an honest assessment to label this a very good vintage. It could even be remembered as a great vintage if cool and dry weather continues through March allowing full flavour development in Grenache and other late season varieties. While the forecasts remain dry, optimism is high that Vineyard 2012 will produce wines the community is proud of.

Monday, February 27, 2012

McLaren Vale Vintage Report - Part 1

Grape harvesting in the McLaren Vale wine region is progressing very well.  The harvest is running earlier than average, following on the trend first seen by an early grapevine bud burst and flowering last spring.
Summer has been warm, but vineyards have been spared the trials of extended heat waves and also heavy rain showers. The weather has been ideal for ripening except for some sites being exposed to high strength gully winds. While wind damage has left these vineyards looking a little rough round the edges, fruit quality has been unaffected.
Shiraz begging to be picked.
At the end of February, most white grapes varieties and approximately half of the Shiraz crop has been picked, with some early Grenache also being taken into wineries.
The 2012 Lazy Ballerina Shiraz, based on fruit from the famous Inkwell vineyard, was picked on the 22nd of February. This was early and in line with the other 'A-Grade' vineyards in similar sites.
Dudley Brown and James working the crusher and de-stemer.
Winemakers reports so far have been glowing, and the Lazy Ballerina vintage is no exception.
Of course winemaking is always subject to the weather and it is possible something could change between now and when the last grape load goes into the crusher.  However, story so far is a great year for all varieties in 2012 which will strengthen McLaren Vale’s reputation as one of the world’s great wine regions.
The chances are, your favourite winery, be that Chapel Hill, Olivers Taranga, Paxtons, Coriole, Chalk Hill or another is sitting on some of its best fruit in years.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Low clouds, high winds and vintage in McLaren Vale

20/12/2012 – At this time of the year grapegrowers are constantly looking at the weather. The pictures on this page show a common localised weather pattern in the McLaren Vale Wine Region. Locals call it a gully breeze.

In this picture a strong breeze is blowing from the ‘range’ (the Southern Mt Lofty Ranges) towards the camera, while a ‘range cloud’ sits on top of the hills. These 'range cloud' conditions slow grape and horticultural ripening rates, in February, March and April, on the Fluerieu and at Kuitpo. The corresponding gully breeze is famous for its strength and duration in McLaren Vale.

The technical name for this cloud formation and accompanying wind is 'Orographic.' Orographic clouds form when humid air blows over the top of the hill range. The air first rises to go over the hill range then, on the downwind side of the range, the air sinks back into the valley and warms. During warming the water droplets (i.e., clouds) evaporate into invisible water vapor.

Humid air moves from the left, eg. Lake Alexandrina and Encounter Bay, is pushed up across the Fluerieu, until it rapidly falls down the leedward side spilling into the McLaren Vale region - right.
It is fascinating to watch orographic clouds and understand that a single cloud is not hanging onto the mountain range. Rather the cloud is rapidly forming and dissipating at the speed of the wind as air rises over the mountain range then sinks on the other side. The parcel of air suddenly becomes visible as it passes over the top of the mountains and clouds temporarily form.