2012 was a very good year for our vines. Although spring was a little cool and the vines were slow to begin active growth, the weather in April and May was warm allowing growth to accelerate rapidly.
Flowering took place in perfect, mild, sunny conditions to give us the basis for well formed clusters at harvest time.
June arrived with 30 – 33℃ temperatures and berries grew steadily to fill bunches. As expected, rain arrived at the end of the month (110mm) and we had a busy period controlling disease on the vines. Our protectant program was working well and we had also removed leaves around bunches to improve air flow through the grapes and vine canopy. Increased air flow means drier grapes and less mildew risk.
August saw a little more rain to keep us vigilant. We picked excellent Chardonnay grapes at 10.0 Baume (18.0 Brix) for sparkling wine base towards the end of August. The wine has crisp acidity with mild Chardonnay fruit characters. It will fit into our sparkling wine program very well.
The best part of the year was still to come. A little wet weather in early September when we were picking table wine Chardonnay meant that we brought the harvest of this grape forward. It will be a lean wine with good Chardonnay character and is likely to be a good cellaring style.
Merlot was next to be harvested. These grapes arrived a little earlier than normal but the wines have wonderfully fragrant fruit characters and good structure. They will fulfil their role of filling out the mid palate of Cabernet Sauvignon very nicely.
Dry conditions then set in for the lead into October. We were able to harvest both Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc at optimum levels (12.5 – 13.0 Baume (alcohol 13%) and 3.35 pH) and the young wines reflect this with ripe cassis and dark berry fruit flavours and excellent structure (acidity and tannin).
At the same time, we also received some grapes from our growers in Ningxia. Though it was a difficult vintage for the region in general (the unexpected weather changed during the growing season, which caused an increase in disease pressure), with better and improved vineyard practices over the past few years, we managed to secure some good-quality fruit.
So back to my opening sentence, A good year? – yes. A great year? Time will tell but the early signs are very encouraging especially with the Cabernets. It is going to be very interesting watching the development of these wines.
Chief Winemaker and Viticulturalist