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The Barossa Valley had a vintage in two halves. Winter rainfall was good, but the driest spring since 2006 was followed by only one rainfall event in early January, as well as that month’s lowest mean maximum temperature for 23 years. February was the opposite, with the highest mean maximum temperature since 2007. All varieties ripened rapidly in February, placing great pressure on tank space and on picking. A combination of circumstances saw some very high baume levels and the need for quick action in the wineries.
A close to ideal year in the Yarra Valley. Good winter and moderate rainfall throughout spring, along with warm spring temperatures, saw much better yields in all varieties than in 2014. Warm but not extreme temperatures continued into summer and meant a very early start to harvest. A dry March, with cool overnight temperatures, kept disease pressure low and allowed grapes to retain excellent natural acidity. Both chardonnay and pinot noir have the winemakers rubbing their hands with glee.
After two excellent to outstanding vintages in 2013 and ’14, it was almost inevitable that the Hunter Valley would return to its vexatious worst. A warm and sunny spring was followed by a cool and wet December, January following with a mix of very hot days and more rain. February, too, saw more rain (51mm). One long-established winery abandoned the vintage, but there will be some good wine from the best vineyards and top makers.
Margaret River had abundant winter and spring rainfall, but little or no rain from November until mid-March, with significant rainfall over three days. More relevantly, it was the worst year for birds on record due to a combination of bushfires and no marri blossom. Yields were very low due to poor flowering and fruitset; chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon were standouts if picked at the right time and free of bird damage (netting the only effective control).
The East Coast, North and South of the state sang the same song: a very good to outstanding vintage. The settled weather through November provided ideal flowering conditions (unlike 2014), resulting in good yields with well formed, even bunches. Rain fell in precisely the right time in late November, putting moisture back into soil threatening to dry out; summer temperatures were slightly warmer than the average, but noticeably cooler than 2013 and ’14.
The Granite Belt, by far the most important region, had a vintage it would rather forget. Spring was extremely dry, and those that did not have access to irrigation suffered poor fruitset. Hail just before Christmas devastated the western Ballandean vineyards; Golden Grove Estate, one of the stars of the region these days, lost 90% of its crop, and had to buy grapes, but even there the difficulties continued.
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