2017 Vintage Snapshot: Western Australia
Margaret River had above-average rainfall in winter, then intermittent rain in January, followed by a dry February, a wet March, and cool nights and dry days in April. This required constant vigilance in the vineyards to forestall disease. The reward was outstanding chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, which Margaret River’s big guns picked two weeks later than normal.
Although the Great Southern is a vast region, it experienced the same cool, late vintage. One sub-region set a record with budburst six weeks later than normal. The very wet winter and spring, followed by cool and basically dry weather, resulted in large crops being set; this in turn meant that fruit-thinning was essential. One report described five fruit-thinning passes through the vineyard as the growing season progressed.
On average, cool, dry conditions started and finished the growing season a month behind 2016. However, all bar one agree that riesling and pinot noir will be exceptional, with perfumed shiraz not far behind. Only one report was less enthusiastic, describing overall quality as above average, but not exceptional.
Manjimup and Pemberton had a topsy-turvy growing season following a wet winter and spring, with rainfall continuing through to December. January was unremarkable, February cooler than average. High humidity and above-average rainfall continued through to March with vintage three to four weeks later than normal. It is hardly surprising that quite a lot of fruit was left unpicked. Chardonnay and pinot noir were the best.
Geographe was basically more of the same: abundant spring rainfall stopped for perfect flowering conditions; followed by a cool summer with grapes maintaining a pure line of acidity; and a much later than usual start to harvest. A totally dry and long Indian summer through April made everyone smile.
The Swan Valley made national news with a cyclone dumping 50–75mm of rain on two occasions, causing the Swan River to flood. The vineyards along the floodplain were submerged for a number of days, resulting in the total loss of the crop. The quality ranges from poor to above average. Crisp verdelho, perfumed grenache and shiraz are the picks.
The Perth Hills had the same winter and spring rain as the rest of the state, resulting in a late growing season with a challenging spring. Yields were high and needed thinning. Merlot was the best-performing variety.
Peel had the hottest start for at least 10 years, but then settled down to the mildest season for that period. Yields were good to very good. All the reds ripened well, but some botrytis with chenin blanc required hand-picking.