2016 Vintage snapshot: New South Wales
The Hunter Valley had the narrowest of escapes with above average rainfall in December and January, the latter ending up with 338mm for the month. Then nature did a U-turn, with negligible rain throughout February and up to the conclusion of vintage. Those who ran a stringent sorting system for semillon got out of jail, although the net impact on some vineyards was a loss of 50%, others a total loss. Shiraz was picked over the course of February, with sugar levels 13.5 to 14.5 baume, and excellent colour.
Mudgee reports that it had one of the best vintages in recent memory, rain in January providing moisture in otherwise bone-dry soils. In the harvest period of February through to April, only 16mm of rain was recorded, making it one of the driest harvests on record. The standouts were riesling, pinot grigio, chardonnay, and the usual suspects of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.
Orange had almost perfect weather conditions, commencing with winter and spring rainfall, which fell with regularity. All varieties ripened rapidly, the downside for vintage insufficient tank and barrel space in a very compressed vintage. Overall quality was good to very good, with cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and riesling leading the way.
The Canberra District felt the El Niño effect with a dry spring and early summer (90mm of rain in the last week of January a blessing). Disease-free fruit with generous yields and perfect levels of ripeness were the result, winery logistics a nightmare. Shiraz and riesling were the standouts. Indeed, one winery rated its cabernet sauvignon and shiraz higher than 2015: a big call.
Hilltops had a wild ride, but taking the drama out of the rainfall and temperature records, it was in fact an ideal growing season, with two of the major players in the region agreeing that it was exceptional, comparable with 2014. The standout variety was shiraz.
The weather for Tumbarumba was very similar to that of Hilltops, but generalisations for Tumbarumba are hazardous because of the large variations in elevation and aspect. Chardonnay is the pick of the vintage, sauvignon blanc strong, and pinot noir riper and denser in the black fruit spectrum plus fullbodied tannins. Overall, a good but not great vintage.
The Southern Highlands had normal winter rain and a warm, dry spring, creating growth a week or two ahead of average. A wet January slowed the ripening, but from this point on the season was favourable, sugar accumulation retarded vis-à-vis phenological flavours. In the outcome, the baume levels were low, flavour levels high. Riesling and pinot gris fared best, but all varieties performed well.
The Shoalhaven Coast experienced high winter and early spring rainfall, the summer warm and dry, the yields very good. All the whites fared well. Tannat was the pick of the red wines.
Good winter and spring rainfall in the Riverina, followed by multiple heatwaves from December through to February, led to a fast and furious harvest, slowed only by rain around Australia Day necessitating selective harvesting. Chardonnay, pinot grigio and arneis stood out, as did shiraz and durif in the reds, all harvested by St Patrick’s Day (March 17), the earliest finish in living memory.