Liberty Premium Australia tasting 2013 highlights: 36 new wines reviewed

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It’s Liberty Wine’s September portfolio tasting in London today. I won’t make it because I’m Down Under, so it was mighty handy to tee up my taste buds at the Australian specialist importer’s Premium Australian trade tasting last week.

I caught up with the latest releases from among the country’s leading producers (15 of whom attended) including, at the vanguard of the 2013 vintage, Mount Horrocks and Grosset Rieslings. A thrilling indication of things to come (and see below for regional reports on this high quality vintage)!

Reflecting what’s happening on the ground, the representation of producers from cooler climes (notably Victoria & Tasmania) has grown significantly in the last few years, so there was great depth and diversity on show too.

This report adds to the 40 wines I wrote up in January following Liberty’s portfolio tasting (click here for those reviews). It covers new vintages, of which 2010’s reds continue to impress for their concentration with beauty and balance, while McLaren Vale has turned out some very delicious, super-drinkable reds in the tricky 2011 vintage; whites in 2012 are fruitful yet poised. Additionally, you’ll find some all-new wines, such as:

  • Cullen Mangan East Block;
  • Tolpuddle Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (from Shaw & Smith duo Michael Hill-Smith and Martin Shaw’s Tasmanian outpost)
  • Liberty’s new entry-level 16 Stops label.

My top half dozen? A tough call, but here they are:

  • Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay 2011
  • Cullen Diana Madeline 2010 (and it’s worth noting that I was utterly charmed by the lift and finesse of a good handful of the Cabernets on show)
  • Tolpuddle Chardonnay 2012
  • Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2013
  • Charles Melton Voices of Angels Shiraz 2010
  • John Duval Entity Shiraz 2010

Finally, after my tasting notes you’ll find reports on this year’s vintage from each of the winemakers (provided with the kind permission of Liberty Wines).

Tasting notes

Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay 2011 (Margaret River)

I always look forward to tasting the latest release of Kevin John – one of Australia’s best, most original Chardonnays, it really dances to its own tune.  Made 100% from the low yielding gin gin clone, in recent years 100% whole bunch pressed (which reduces juice yield but increases juice quality and purity) and, for many years, naturally fermented, it’s a powerhouse in the best sense (click here for my notes on a vertical 1997-2010 which affirms Cullen Chardonnays’ immense ageing capacity).  Intense, not dense, with great depth and layer of fruit, oak and minerals to nose and palate.  So potent, in fact, that I happily nosed the empty glass for minutes afterwards, so in thrall was I to its contents! The oak is beautifully integrated, bringing a gently nutty/toasty burnish to its conncentrated layers of dried pear, melon and citrus.  An arresting streak of very pure, limey acidity carries a super-long, penetrating finish with a quinine edge of minerality.  Outstanding. 13.5% RRP £69.99 (presumably a top end price because I notice it is priced at £57.75 at Wine Direct)

Cullen Margaret Mangan Vineyard 2011 (Margaret River)

This single vineyard blend of Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot (roughly one third each) has lovely (brambly) fruit vibrancy and all round panache – a word I rarely use and which historically means a tuft or plume of feathers, especially as a headdress or on a helmet. I think that works for this perky, uplifting red, with its attractive backbone of ripe but present fruit tannins.  RRP £27.99

Cullen Mangan East Block 2012 (Margaret River)

This new release – a blend of 54% Petit Verdot, 46% Malbec – continues Cullen’s journey drilling down into the terroir of their two biodynamically cultivated vineyards (separate Cullen Estate and Mangan vineyard Semillon/Sauvignons were first made in 2006) The Petit Verdot is immediately apparent from this wine’s vibrant, purple glass staining (bright-legged) appearance.  Once again the fruit – brambles and blood plum – is very vibrant, juicily, youthfully to the fore.  Time in glass, reveals violets and spice aromas and flavours. The chalky tannins lend attractive grip.  A sign – together with the glass-staining – that this new red has plenty of staying power.  So do not be deceived by its upfront joyous fruit!  12.5% RRP £34.99

Cullen Diana Madeline 2010 (Margaret River)

The levity and balance of this iconic Bordeaux blend defies belief in the extraordinary 2010 vintage.  It was striking 26 months ago on my very first barrel sample taste (my notes on it and every vintage back to 1981 here).  Vanya Cullen is renowned for her gentle touch but this takes things into another graceful dimension.  Cedar and mineral-sluiced red and black currant/cassis fruit presents seamlessly.  Wonderfully fluid with fine-grained tannins and tremendous elegant length and lift.  I can scarcely believe that the 2011 is even better, so I’m told! 13% RRP £67.99

Plantagenet Riesling 2013 (Great Southern)

This is Cath Oates first vintage (she blended the 2012s).  While she is freshening up other wines in the range, reducing the oak, picking earlier and using some whole bunch for the Shiraz, she’s very happy to continue the style of the Riesling.  A floral nose with incipient honey to the palate.  Although it’s juicily grapefruity, the acidity is round and ripe.  Pronounced slatey minerality impresses on the long, serious finish.   Very good indeed.  12.3%  RRP £15.99

Plantagenet Museum Release Riesling 2005 (Great Southern)

I’d love to see more museum releases from Australia and the country’s classic dry style of Riesling (for some too austere in its youth) is certainly a benefactor.  Showing a spectrum of ages really broadens its appeal.  And this is a delightful example, with lime blossom, grapefruit sorbet and petrol hints to the nose.  In the mouth it has honeyed, applely fruit, with delicious floral, talcy notes.  The finish is pithy and precise with steely grapefruit.  Delicious.  13%  RRP £18.99

Plantagenet Omrah Pinot Noir 2012 (Great Southern)

Good varietal typicity, with fresh red raspberry fruit and savoury beetroot.  Very drinkable.  Well done.  RRP £13.99

Shaw and Smith Shiraz 2010 (Adelaide Hills)

Initially dark and spicy, even a touch muddy, but then it slips into a different gear, really starts motoring, revealing juicy blood plum fruit with lifted cinnamon spice and earthier savoury beetroot.  Textured tannins lend grip and anchor the flavours, making for a long finish.  Not muddy at all.  RRP £24.99

Tolpuddle Chardonnay 2012 (Tasmania)

Michael Hill Smith was cock-a-hoop about this project when I met with him earlier this year (see my report here), as was his cousin Martin Shaw who showed the wines this month.  At £44.99, this is an ambitiously priced debut, but I can well understand why the Shaw & Smith guys – great fans of regionality – were so excited.  As Shaw puts it “Tasmania takes line and intensity almost to another plane.”  Sure enough, I’m impressed by its Tassie-ness – its crunchy, bright acidity, cool quince, grapefruit and apple (yet with lovely fruit weight and intensity), stony/pebbly acidity and dancing floral notes.   Shaw tells me with 100% natural acidity “you don’t need to fiddle”- it really makes its own shape in the mouth (there’s decent vine age here too – the vineyard was planted in 1988).  13%  RRP £44.99

Tolpuddle Pinot Noir 2012 (Tasmania)

The fruit from this vineyard has been earmarked for top Pinots, including Hardys Eileen Hardy, so its depth of colour, flavour and concentration come as no surprise.  Lovely richness and purity of plum and berry fruit with just a cool (Tassie) hint of hedgerow and charcuterie (oak).  The tannins are very supple.  It just misses a touch of energy (an edge of tannin and acidity) and lift (perfume) for me, at least on this showing.  13% RRP £53.99

16 Stops Chardonnay 2013 (Adelaide Hills)

This new entry point range is made by Tim James (who is also responsible for Liberty’s Willunga range).  It’s a great example of how Australia’s Chardonnay renaissance has impacted on wines from top to bottom.  Unoaked but with time on lees which gives a savoury, cashew and mealy edge to this wine’s apple and white peach fruit, this is an elegant, hands off wine for the price point.  Hands off but one to get your hands on!  13% RRP £8.99

16 Stops McLaren Vale Shiraz 2011 (McLaren Vale)

With Willunga 100 Shiraz/Viognier, Mitolo Jester Cabernet and Dandelion Vineyard’s Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz/Riesling evidence that McLaren Vale came off better than most South Australian regions in this wet year.  Good depth of colour and ripe round, plumy fruit, with food-friendly juiciness.  Well done. RRP £8.99

Willunga 100 Shiraz/Viognier 2011 (McLaren Vale Shiraz/Viognier)

Nice depth and juiciness to its blackcurrant fruit with attractive ripe but present anchoring threads of tannins. Again, well done.  RRP £11.99

Mitolo Jester Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (McLaren Vale)

I like the intensity with juiciness of this blackcurrant and blackberry fruited wine, its violet lift too.  Nice balance.  RRP £13.99

Mitolo GAM Shiraz 2009 (McLaren Vale)

This single vineyard Shiraz is rich, dark and gamy with a savoury edge to its concentrated but balanced red and black fruits.  Starting to hit it stride, with bags of potential.  £28.99

Mount Horrocks Watervale Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley)

Though floral, the nose and palate are tightly wound in terms of fruit expression.  Yet one sees glimmers of bright citrus – lemon, lime and orange – behind its slatey carapace, hints of fleshier lychee too.  The finish is chalkily charged with dry extract, a characteristic which Toole (and Grosset) attribute to the very low pH of the wines from this vintage, the lowest they have known.  Impressive; very young.    RRP £19.99

Mount Horrocks Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Clare Valley)

Sweet-fruited but succulent too, with perfumed, cedary blueberry and blackcurrant fruit.  Fine-grained tannins make for an elegant Cab Sav with classic 2010 balance.  RRP £24.99

Grosset Springvale Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley)

With a low pH which Jeff Grosset says “really pulls it in,” he’s not exaggerating.  It has cheek-sucking acidity on the attack, with rapier-like lemon drops and grapefruit which equally fuel a long, taut , chalky salty, finish.  And yet one is also aware of a body of concentrated, ripe fruit behind, a more expansive stony minerality, which bears further examination and which I shall, as usual, put to the test when I taste this over a couple of days at home. 12.5% RRP £24.99

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley)

Again, incredibly, invigoratingly youthful, packing a real punch with its mineral-chiselled talcy palate and penetrating laser beam grapefruit and mineral acidity.  Tremendous palate presence.  Massive potential.  I shall also review this over a couple of days and report back.  12.5%  RRP £29.99

Grosset Clare Valley Semillon/Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Given his profile for Riesling and this style’s association with Margaret River, this blend of 70% Semillon and 30% single-site Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc flies beneath the radar.  But it’s a brilliant wine, leaping out the glass and dancing an energetic, fleet of foot citrus and kaffir lime jive across the palate.  Lovely intensity and chalky length.  A prettiness too.  RRP £22.99

Grosset Gaia 2010 (Clare Valley)

This delicately nuanced blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc from Clare Valley’s highest altitude vineyard boasts pencil shavings and dried herb notes to nose and palate.  Though tightly concentrated, the black berry and currant fruit is teased out by a fine but firm frame of tannins and juicy acidity.   Very fine; lovely lift.  RRP £43.99

Dandelion Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz/Riesling 2011 (McLaren Vale)

Though it’s a very deep hue, this has a lovely freshness and juicy immediacy to its sappy, fleshy black-fruited palate.  A grind of spicy black pepper adds interest and lift.       Lovely – really drinkable; more my style than the 2010 which is similarly well made but with sweeter fruit intensity.  Discussing it with winemaker Elena Brooks, she said the vintage “has taught us to pick earlier” (i.e. with a view to capturing more freshness and spice).  RRP £12.99 (By the way should you be in McLaren Vale, The Salopian Inn in McLaren Vale is now cellar door for Elena and Zar Brooks’ other label, Heirloom; I dare say it will be well worth checking out).

Dandelion Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz 2011 (Barossa)

Lovely spicy resonance and juicy fresh black fruit to this Barossa Shiraz in 2011; another very drinkable, fruity Shiraz with interest from 2011. RRP £12.99

Charles Melton Nine Popes 2010 (Barossa Valley)

Rich deep, floral and persistent, the perfumed Grenache shines through in this balanced, long, persistent blend with Shiraz and a dash of Mourvedre. Lovely sheen of black berry and plum fruit; fine tannins.  RRP £33.99

Charles Melton Voices of Angels Shiraz 2010 (Adelaide Hills)

From a Shiraz block just over the Eden Valley border at Mt Pleasant near the Adelaide Hills, this vineyard typically ripens 2-3 weeks (sometimes as much as 6 weeks), before the Shiraz for Melton’s other Shiraz, Grains of Paradise from the Barossa Valley.  It’s a beautiful, lingering wine, velvety and pure-fruited with lovely freshness and poise, peppery lift too.  Terrific.  RRP £38.99

Charles Melton Grains of Paradise Shiraz 2010 (Barossa Valley)

As you’d expect from a lower, warmer vineyard, riper, darker and richer than the Voices of Angels.  As they say in the Barossa, a velvet kiss.  But the fruit remains bright, with 2010’s balance.  This combined with ripe but powerful, seamless tannins makes for a long and persistent finish with loamy, earthy chocolate. Very accomplished.   RRP £42.99

John Duval Plexus Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvedre 2009 (Barossa Valley)

This has a lovely floral, damask quality on nose and palate to its supple, rolling layers of red and black fruits.  Very good.  14.5%  RRP £26.99

John Duval Entity Shiraz 2010 (Barossa Valley)

One of my picks of the tasting, with an increased percentage of Eden Valley fruit this has a delightful, vibrant peppery riff to its elegant black fruit.  The palate is polished and persistent.  Very classy indeed, with masterful use of oak; stacks up very well against the competition price-wise too.  14.5%  RRP £29.99

Innocent Bystander Chardonnay 2012 (Yarra Valley)

Lovely fruit weight and balance to this Yarra Chardonnay, which shows cool white peach with a leesy, mealy lingering finish.  Elegant and flavoursome.  RRP £14.99

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir 2012 (Yarra Valley)

Owner Phil Sexton says that there’s a shift to the Upper Yarra for Pinot Noir “now we really understand what Yarra Pinot Noir should look like…feminine.” And this is a great example for the price point – the best Innocent Bystander Pinot I’ve tasted. It boasts succulent fruit – plum and red cherry – with an attractive balancing bitter campari edge. Juicy persistence lends good energy and frame.  Really well done – a dangerously drinkable Pinot, but more serious than the Omrah.  RRP £14.99

William Downie Pinot Noir 2012 (Gippsland)

Downie’s Pinot Noirs are as intense and thought-provoking as the man himself.  I find them mutable too – hopefully so with the Yarra Valley 2012 which was at a very pimply stage.  In contrast, the Gippsland Pinot offers sweet red fruits, pretty peony lift and ultra fine tannins.  But as you’d expect from Downie, there’s a distinctly savoury dimension too, which builds in the mouth, lending earthy complexity.  Broachable now, but there’s more to come.  £49.99

William Downie Pinot Noir 2012 (Mornington Peninsula)

A dark Pinot with a chocolate edge to its plum fruit.  So far so lush but a ripe but present corset of tannins brings great structure, length and vinosity.  Very promising.  RRP £49.99

By Farr Sangreal Pinot Noir 2010 (Geelong)

Earthy, beetrooty whole bunch characters make for a dark, dense style of plummy Pinot of lovely intensity, which is perfectly off-set by juicy, balancing acidity.  Good energy and length.  Very good.  RRP £55.99

Greenstone Sangiovese 2010 (Heathcote)

Sangiovese hasn’t been an easy nut to crack in Australia but the inside track on good clones has been of no little assistance to owners Italy’s Alberto Antonio, Liberty’s David Gleave MW (also an Italian wine specialist) and viticulturist Mark Walpole.  With excellent varietal typicity, this is a really refined Sangiovese with bright, silky, slightly sour red cherry and plum fruit seamlessly melded to a firm but ripe backbone of tannins and mineral mouth-cleansing acidity.  Excellent freshness, definition and length. The first vintage to really impress me. £29.99

Clonakilla Viognier 2012 (Canberra District)

A very finely honed, fresh Viognier, whose ginger-edged stone fruit has the most delicate touch of  bacon fat and a terrific pull of mineral acidity.  The finish is long and tapering. A Viognier that just might age very well.  £39.99

Clonakilla O`Riada Shiraz 2009 (Canberra District)

Very different from the estate grown Shiraz Viognier (the gorgeous 2010 reviewed here and in fine fettle this month), the O’Riada is darker and butcher with attractive black pepper and tannin grunt to its blackberry fruit, liquorice and orange peel too.  Very well done.  14.5%  £35.99

2013 Vintage Reports

Australia’s 2013 vintage wines are expected to be of high quality, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz likely to be the standout varieties across most regions.  Pinot Noir, Grenache, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Semillon are also expected to be of excellent quality.  The absence of any major natural disasters meant that most producers experienced a disease free vintage, while good water availability contributed to the high quality vintage.  In most regions a dry, hot summer brought an early, condensed harvest. With alcohol levels in red grapes increasing rapidly, some producers ended up harvesting reds before the whites.

Margaret River

Another wonderful vintage’, Vanya Cullen.

Weather conditions up until Christmas were cooler and fresher than usual, after which the temperatures rose gradually and the weather leading up to and during vintage was warm and perfect for harvesting. At Cullen, harvest began on the 6th February and ended as early as the 8th of March.  The team there found themselves harvesting around the new moon and flower days, rather than the full moon and fruit days as in previous vintages.  While yields were down due to the cooler than normal spring, the fruit produced by all the varieties in the Cullen vineyards was exceptional and the quality of the harvest is looking even better than 2012, which was regarded as an excellent vintage.

Great Southern

Roller coaster ride weather conditions’, Cath Oates, Plantagenet

The growing season commenced with above average winter rainfall, followed by a temperature spike in mid-August which resulted in an early start to the growing season. Cool weather ensued, with equally uncomplimentary high rain fall for the three months of spring. These mild cool conditions were responsible for low fruit set in the Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc varietals and also created extensive vegetative growth prior to Christmas.

In yet another dramatic change the sun came out for the January summer holidays and over a period of 10 days, unprecedented heat accelerated white grape ripeness to fruition,

2013 is expected to be a particularly strong year for Riesling, with incredible intensity of flavours and the wines being richer than usual.  For Cath Oates at Plantagenet, the star of the vintage is the Chardonnay which achieved perfect ripeness with fine, ripe acidity.  It will also be one of the very best vintages in decades for Cabernet, while the warm conditions pushed the Sauvignon Blanc to the more succulent, tropical spectrum while retaining that grassy Great Southern note.

Adelaide Hills

‘Thinning fruit to achieve target yields was crucial’, Michael Hill Smith

In 2013 the Adelaide Hills experienced one of their driest seasons on record.  The need to irrigate caused large berries and higher than expected crops and for producers like Shaw + Smith, it was essential to control yields to achieve ripeness and concentration.

Leading up to and throughout harvest temperatures were higher than usual with occasional heat spikes, which welcomed the consistently cool nights. Taking into account a warmer than average growing season and a compressed harvest window, producers are happy with the overall quality of the 2013 vintage. The white wines look very solid, but it may be the reds that have the edge.

Tasmania

‘Fruit quality was outstanding and there was no disease pressure,’ David LeMire MW, Tolpuddle

The 2013 season began favourably with spring rains and a warm dry summer. Winemakers across the island were pleased with the high quality fruit and yields 20-30% up from the 2012 vintage. Heavy cropping meant the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were harvested two weeks later than usual.

At Tolpuddle, conditions at the start of the growing season were cool but improved in the lead up to flowering. Excellent fruit set and ripening were achieved with the dry and mild summer. Potential yields were higher than expected, spurning the vineyard team to undertake fruit thinning prior to vintage. The Chardonnay harvest commenced on 12th March and was completed by 25th March. Pinot Noir was picked a little later, coming into the winery between 25th March and 4th April. Fruit quality was outstanding, with both varieties featuring good acid levels.

McLaren Vale

 ‘High hopes for the 2013s’’, Frank Mitolo

 Winter provided excellent rainfall in McLaren Vale, which was to prove critical as the rest of the season turned out to be very dry and the subsoils retained good levels of moisture. Spring and the start of summer were quite mild, and very dry – the ideal growing conditions. Fruit set was causing no real problems until a small heatwave at the end of February caused fruit to ripen very quickly and made for a very early vintage, particularly for Shiraz and Cabernet.  For Tim James at Willunga 100, there were some concerns of high alcohol, most noticeably in Shiraz, some of which was picked well before the whites!

At Mitolo, harvest began with the Vermentino on the 21st February, followed immediately by the Shiraz and then Cabernet, finishing by mid-March, usually when the red varieties start to be picked! Yields were 20-30% down on reds with some Cabernet vineyards down by almost 50%.  The 2013 vintage looks like it will deliver fresh and bright wines, packed with varietal character and a lighter feel than the revered 2010 and 2012.

Clare Valley

‘A perfect harvest’, Stephanie Toole, Mount Horrocks

Rainfall in winter was moderate and low in spring, which created many nervous growers and wineries, but thankfully some good rain in December and two good falls in February helped the vineyards in Clare get through in healthy condition. Yields were down on Semillon, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon but the region’s major variety Riesling, was the standout grape, with slightly higher quantities than 2012.

At Mount Horrocks, the conditions during harvest were perfect, with slightly cooler than average temperatures, no rain and cool nights. The team started picking Semillon on the 11th February and ended with the Cordon Cut Riesling on the 7th May.   In terms of style, the Riesling is similar to 2012 while the Cordon Cut shows great flavours and finesse and is a little more restrained than the previous vintage.

At Grosset, the 2013 vintage commenced with high expectations, as the growing season was ideal and the quality of the fruit was superb. Dry and warm conditions meant early flavour development and harvest commenced in mid-February. The Cabernet was in perfect condition, resulting in generous flavours and a well-structured wine, while the 2013 Rieslings were a fraction leaner, but otherwise very similar in style and quality to 2012.

Coonawarra

‘The challenge was to maintain good healthy canopies without causing vigour issues’, Pete Bissell, Balnaves

Pre-season saw reasonable winter rains and a cooler start to the year. Particularly cool nights were experienced leading up to fruit set. Set was much more even than has been experienced in recent years and crops were small to medium, slightly better than 2012, but not by much, leading to shortages in Cabernet Sauvignon. One of the main drivers however was the lack of rainfall, with the growing season from November on being exceptionally dry.

January and late February saw some brief hot spells that brought vintage start forward to the last week of the month for reds. Vintage stretched out from February to May, making it one of the longest vintages on record. An unseasonal hail storm caused a lot of damage in Coonawarra and affected only the very northern blocks on Balnaves vineyard.

Despite the long vintage and small crop, for Peter Bissell at Balnaves, the overall quality of the harvest was very good.

Barossa Valley

‘One of the best Grenache years for a long time’, Charlie Melton

2013 in the Barossa was one of the driest seasons for a century, with virtually no rain from August to February. Very high temperatures occurred from November to January after which it cooled down quite dramatically. Five of the first 17 days in January were above 40°C, but on the 31st January Charlie Melton had to get the first going!

At Charles Melton, harvest began with Grenache for Rose of Virginia and Pinot Meunier on 8th February and the first Shiraz was picked on the 13th February, all about a week to ten days earlier than average.  Yields were the lowest they heard of in the Krondorf area, with almost all varieties only achieving a maximum of 1 tonne per acre. In terms of quality, 2013 was a very good year for the Mediterranean varieties, Grenache and Shiraz, with a similar style to the sweet, juicy plump years of 2005 and 2009.

John Duval’s vineyards cropped at low yields in 2013 with exceptional colour and good tannin structure. Vintage began with a rush on 12th February as sugar levels spiked, before some cooler nights lengthened the harvest. Fruit quality steadily improved over vintage with some particularly impressive old vine parcels of Grenache harvested between 1st and 14th March. The final pick on 26th March revealed exceptional Shiraz from the Eden Valley. John expects the 2013 Plexus Marsanne, Rousanne , Viognier to be of high quality as those varieties are already displaying good fruit weight and texture.

Eden Valley

The 2013 harvest was quick and dry in the Eden Valley. Most Shiraz and Riesling grapes were picked during the first two weeks of March, following the February heat wave. Yields were low across the board, but the warm conditions led to great fruit concentration.  Most winemakers reported good natural acidity in their Riesling with generally high quality fruit across the other varieties.  Shiraz from this vintage will be a particular standout while Grenache and Cabernet look promising.

Yarra Valley

‘Short and sharp’, Steve Flamsteed, Innocent Bystander

The Yarra Valley enjoyed good winter rainfall in 2012 and a warm, dry 2013 growing season.  Harvest began early before some much needed rain arrived in late February and dropped the mercury. With the end fo Spring and start of summer being dry, careful, intelligently timed waterings allowed Innocent Bystander to keep healthy vibrant canopies. Despite the trying conditions throughout January the quality of the fruit has been exceptional with another very good vintage recorded throughout the Yarra Valley. Growers are heralding the Shiraz as looking particularly promising from this vintage.

Mornington Peninsula/Gippsland

‘Wine styles in 2013 will be full and rich with quite dense colour,’ William Downie.

Wet soils in the lead up to flowering and a warm, dry summer created ideal ripening conditions in the foothills of the Peninsula. Vines were generally free from disease pressure, with very few blocks challenged by powdery mildew. Picking commenced around 16th February and finished abruptly by mid-March. Pinot Noir from this vintage is looking particularly promising.

William Downie enjoyed warm and dry weather across the Mornington Peninsular and Gippsland during the 2013 vintage. Harvest concluded in Gippsland and on the Mornington Peninsula in the second week of March. The Pinot Noir across all three regions was of excellent quality with full, strong and clean bunches. Yields were very low and the resulting wines are reasonably rich with quite dense colour, reminiscent of the 2008 vintage.

Geelong

‘2005 was similarly a long, dry season, which produced elegant wines,’ Nick Farr.

Spring in Geelong was almost non-existent, with hardly any rainfall.  The long and dry season caused stress to the vines and resulted in a short and sharp vintage.  Harvest at By Farr commenced on the 6th March and ended on the 28th March. Yields were good, with cropping at average to above average levels. The resulting wines are predicted to be elegant, pretty, fruit driven wines, similar in style to 2005.

Heathcote

‘Wine quality is exceptional with high colours in both Shiraz and Sangiovese,’ Greenstone

Heathcote experienced some unusual weather patterns during the 2013 growing season. Spring was typically mild and dry, with only 80mm of rain recorded from budburst to the onset of ripening. A heatwave in early January took temperatures above 40 degrees and the dry conditions continued through vintage with a little rain falling at the end of February. Humid conditions in March brought heavy rains to some parts of the region.

Despite the unpredictable weather during mid to late summer, the Greenstone wines from the 2013 vintage are looking exceptional. Vintage commenced on 24th February with the first of the Shiraz fruit, followed by the Sangiovese harvest on 6th March and finishing with the final Shiraz pick on 14th March. Yields were good and the wine quality is exceptional. Brilliant colours in both Shiraz and Sangiovese are complimented by an extra dimension of tannin structure that is not present in the 2012 wines. This is clearly a ‘reserve’ year for the Sangiovese, making it at least as good as the 2007 and 2010, if not the best made to date.

Canberra

 ‘The wines in barrel are extraordinary,’ Clonakilla

2013 heralded a return to the warm and sunny conditions, reminiscent of the early part of the millennium, in both the Hilltops region and the Canberra District. At Clonakilla, deep colours and rich aromas abound in the 2013 wines. Red varieties are rich with beautiful, dark fruit characters. Ripe tannins and good levels of retained natural acid bring concentration and balance to the wines. These cooler regions of New South Wales are likely to produce wines to seriously rival the great 2009s’. Watch this space.

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