2017 Vintage Snapshot: South Australia
The Barossa (including Eden Valley) experienced life-giving winter and spring rains, and vintage was a month later than 2016 (’02 is often cited as a reference point: ’02 and ’17 were very cool and late vintages, while ’16 was hot and early). High yields had to be controlled; the reward was outstanding riesling and high quality shiraz, followed by the opposite extremes of cabernet sauvignon and grenache. One response did suggest dilution of flavour could take the edge off some or all of the varieties.
The Clare Valley started vintage two weeks later than 2016. The canopies were in better condition than those of many years past. Riesling and shiraz were the standouts for most, elegant cabernet sauvignon for others.
The Adelaide Hills had a very wet winter, then average rainfall throughout the growing season coupled with low temperatures (similar to 2002 and ’04) resulted in harvest four to six weeks later than ’16. Control of yields (fruit and shoot thinning) was essential. This year has the potential to be one of the truly great vintages, with chardonnay and shiraz leading the way.
The Adelaide Plains experienced the same cool, wet (until January) and late vintage. Yields were 30% above normal, with shiraz and cabernet sauvignon the best (no surprise there).
In McLaren Vale, the higher ground, coupled with cabernet sauvignon and grenache, produced wines of the highest quality for 2017. On the looser soils, vigilance was essential to combat fungal disease head on. Overall, elegance and balance characterise the ’17 vintage.
Langhorne Creek had above-average rains in winter, spring and summer, and a three-week delay in harvest. The snake in the Garden of Eden was an inundation of the floodplain, resulting in the loss of, or damage to, shiraz.
Southern Fleurieu had temperatures 4 ̊C below long-term average throughout a prolonged spring. A mild summer with no heat spikes to upset the apple cart means that a great vintage is expected.
Kangaroo Island experienced the wettest winter ever recorded, with 1100mm, followed by a wet spring with rain every 10 days resulting in a very low yield (poor set at flowering). The white varieties, however, benefitted from the very late (four weeks) vintage.
Coonawarra also cited 2002 and ’04 as particular references for ’17. Cabernet is a standout, with excellent colour, concentration and tannins.
Mount Benson and Robe
Mount Benson and Robe went hand-in-glove, although Robe showed the highest rainfall since records commenced in 1861. Much warmer conditions in March and April ensured high quality shiraz and cabernet sauvignon for those who kept crop levels low.
Wrattonbully followed the Limestone Coast pattern, as did Padthaway. The Riverland had heavy (100mm) bursts of rain throughout spring and as late as Boxing Day; coupled with the low temperatures, harvest delays of four weeks were common. The yields were only slightly above average, but the temperature and rainfall created a wildcard situation, with little or no consistency from one vineyard to the next. Tough-skinned cabernet sauvignon is the standout.