Winemakers can talk all they like about wild yeasts, cold soaks and barrel ferments, but the factor that will play the greatest part in determining the quality of this year's crop of wines from Tasmania is one in which they will have no say at all. It will be the weather.
So while the prospects for 2012 are still too early to call, the mild to warm temperatures and periodic bright sunshine of the past few months have producers in the State feeling optimistic about their chances of a favourable harvest period this year.
That’s very much the situation at Stefano Lubiana Wines, just 20km north of Hobart in the Derwent Valley. For us, harvest is finally underway, with our trusty vintage team at last donning their gumboots and cranking up the press to process close to 4 tonnes of Chardonnay and 260kg of Pinot Meunier from our beautiful vineyard overlooking the Derwent River.
That took place on Monday, the day when most good citizens of the State were enjoying a well-deserved public holiday (Labour Day). It was certainly a quick pick. The volume wasn't quite what we were expecting or hoping for - bunch sizes were small, and there weren't as many grapes on our vines as we'd estimated - but the quality is excellent.
As ever, vineyard manager Mark Hoey combined with seasoned vineyard hands James Tubb and Jamie Lee to really deliver the goods this vintage, so congratulations must go to them for the fabulous fruit now beginning its journey towards sparkling wine.
For the record, this week's harvest falls well within the period we'd regard as average for our property... not as early as 2006, nor as late as 2004.
In fact, the closest recent comparisons we have are for 2005, when we picked 3.8 tonnes of Chardonnay on March 10th. We still regard that vintage as the best we've experienced at our Granton Vineyard since we planted the site back in 1991.
Our fingers and toes are all crossed in the expectation that 2012 may rival 2005 in terms of quality. We'll see...
We must admit we’d been expecting a slightly earlier start than March 12th. Our neighbours at Derwent Estate – literally over the fence – began harvesting two weeks ago. By all accounts, they’re very happy with the quality of the vintage.
On sites elsewhere in the north of the State, wine producers have enjoyed a marvellous summer and early autumn, with consistently warm and dry weather bringing early starts to vintage, along with expectations of some outstanding wines being produced in 2012.
Welcome to our 2012 vintage team
One of the really great things about vintage is that it gives us the chance to work alongside some wonderfully talented up-and-coming winemakers.
This year will provide no exception to that assessment as we welcome our international team of winemakers/cellarhands: Gavin Robertson (from Ontario, Canada), Tyler Eck (from California, USA) and Daniel Schmitt (from the Rheinhessen in Germany).
Daniel's family owns and operates a 16ha organic vineyard and winery in one of Europe's best known Riesling-producing regions. We're especially looking forward to hearing his thoughts and ideas on Tasmanian Riesling over the coming weeks.
Gavin, of course, is no stranger to Riesling either, having worked in Canada's world famous Niagara region, where Iced Rieslings are made in the vineyard (rather than the winery, which is Australia's response to the challenge of creating these fabulous stickies).
Cool climate viticulture has been Tyler's focus in recent seasons, having both graduated from NZ's Lincoln University - and made wine at Dry River – and then worked at Peay Vineyards on the US Sonoma Coast.
Just when we’ll see our next pick pass across our triage table, we’re not sure. Fruit samples are currently being tested so we’ll soon have a better handle on how our fruit aromas and flavours are developing in the vineyard.
In the meantime, our winemaking team has a little bottling, labelling and packaging to do as they while away the hours. It may not be quite as romantic or as idyllic as handling freshly picked grapes, but it’s absolutely essential for keeping the business ticking over!
PS In coming days and weeks, we’ll be posting photos and videos of vintage 2012 on our Flickr pages. You find us here: