News

That’s a wrap: insights from the 2019 wine vintage in Australia

By Halliday Wine Companion

26 Apr, 2019

The bulk of activity is wrapping up for vintage 2019. Through the live updates from our social media feed and its #v19halliday hashtag, you can get an idea of how harvest played out – and get excited for the wine releases to come.

THE REGIONS

It’s been a hot, hard and fast vintage across the country. Extreme heat led to an early start, with the Hunter Valley kicking things off as far back as January. For some wine regions, the high temperatures and dry weather had devastating effects, with fires breaking out in parts of New South Wales (New England), Victoria (Gippsland), South Australia (Clare Valley), Queensland (Granite Belt) and southern Tasmania. The good news is that in most places the blazes were able to be contained with the help of the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

@struddy66: “Another hot start to vintage #v19 #vintage #huntervalley #summer.”Thermometer reading 45 degrees Celsius
@hugewino: “Nice week of weather to kick off vintage #adelhills #v19 #needacoolbreak.”Weather forecast with high temperatures

While the warm climate does pose issues for the sustainability of the industry, heat during harvest isn’t necessarily a negative for wine quality and can result in highly concentrated fruit and sought-after releases (the balance of rain and sun through the other seasons, of course, plays a role too).

@gilbertfamilywines: “Vintage 2019 // Short and sweet with low yields but fantastic quality!”Red wine ferment

It’s been not only a hot vintage but also a fast one, with producers scrambling to get all of the grapes in within a tight timeframe. Wineries often aim to be done by Easter and for the most part this year that hasn’t been a problem, as harvest came a month early for many. Even typically cooler areas such as the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula started and finished picking in a few short weeks. Coonawarra was one of the last regions standing, with some of its wineries continuing up until Anzac Day. 

@koernerwine: “And in a quick 12 days we have finished all of our grape picking for V19!”Truck loaded with wine grapes
@tokarestate: “We are super happy with what’s come off the vine BUT it’s very hard to believe it’s the 19th of March and all the fruit is off!!!”Bin of red wine grapes

While the eastern seaboard was busily pulling in fruit, areas of the west coast like Margaret River had a delayed start, with some wineries only kicking off as the rest of the country was wrapping up.

@passelestate: “Though it has been a later vintage than usual we're pleased to tell you that the grapes are looking wonderful.”Sauvignon blanc vines in Margaret River
@larrycherubino: “Golden autumn mornings have arrived in Frankland River. We have finished harvest here, just Margaret River to go.”Larry Cherubino misty vineyard

While the hot and dry conditions meant fires and the need for more water than normal for some, overall, the reports on quality from regions across the country have been positive, and drinkers can expect aromatic, intensely flavoured wines from 2019. Wineries are learning how to deal with weather extremes, so the adverse effects are limited, but they’re also looking to proactive solutions for the future.

THE VARIETIES

Chardonnay, semillon and sauvignon blanc were some of the first cabs off the rank this vintage (although with the heat, in lots of areas all of the grapes were coming off the vines at practically the same time – regardless of their colour).

@woodlandswinery: “New season chardonnay going to barrel. This vintage is looking bright and beautiful. Small in production but powerful in personality.”
Chardonnay in glass and wine barrel in background
@bluegables: “Very busy morning picking our 2019 sauvignon blanc... extremely happy with this year’s fruit so far!!!”Sauvignon blanc grapes

The rich colours and heady aromas of shiraz had winemakers excited about the results.

@goldenchildwines: “Shiraz pick is a go for our Turning Point Syrah. Fruit quality looks insane!!” Shiraz grapes
@philipshawwines: “Great colour and foam on the shiraz ferments.” Plunging down the cap on shiraz wine

When it came to pinot noir, however, there were reports of smaller than usual bunches and berries.

@turonwines: “PINOT NOIR | Finally here. A low-yielding year full of hen and chicken berries, tight bunches and ripe stalks. This pinot is giving us amazing perfume and intense colour.”Pinot noir grapes in the Adelaide Hills
@oakdenewines: “#pinotnoir #harvest starts tomorrow. MV6 clone here, small crop reflecting the very dry year!”Bunch of pinot noir grapes

Emerging grape varieties – ones that are becoming increasingly popular for their drought tolerance and ability to withstand heatwaves such as those experienced this year – tend to hang on the vine for longer. Some of the last to come off and into the wineries were aglianico and nebbiolo.

@bartvanolphen: “Last grapes! Aglianico, you superstar.”Bucket of aglianico grapes
@billybuttonwine: “Last fruit today with this nebbiolo from the Ferraro vineyard!! It was worth the wait, but we’re glad it’s over for another year.”Nebbiolo grapes

A classic variety that needs longer on the vine to build ripeness and reduce green characters is cabernet – at the time of writing, some wineries were still waiting for the right moment to pick.

@seville_estate: “Old vine cabernet #lastpick #cabernet #oldvine #v19.”Cabernet sauvignon grapes

MORE TO DO

When all the fruit has been brought in from the vines, pressing and fermenting happen in the winery, and some wines are placed into barrels for a ‘sleep’ that can last several years. 

@dowiedoole: “Freshly barrelled shiraz... we will see this wine again in 2021!” Dowie Doole red wine in glass with barrel in the background

There’s also a big clean-up that needs to happen. Masses of grape skins, pulp, seeds and stalks, or grape marc, become waste to remove from wineries, but smart producers use those leftovers for cattle feed or fertiliser to put back into their vines.

@hugewino: “Grubs up girls! Dry times... after grapes are pressed our sheep are fed the leftover skins and stalks.”Cattle eating grape marc

That’s it for vintage 2019. Now to look out for the first wine releases!

@goldenchildwines: “2019 ‘Lazy Sunday’ light red, hanging in oak, ready for release this spring!!”Barrels of syrah wine