Its a new year, but no holiday in the vineyard

Don monitors the grapes in the Farrell Wines vineyard at Sevenhill, Clare Valley

January is an exciting time for everyone in the wine industry.  The focus this month is in the vineyard and making preparations for vintage, which the most intensive time of the winemaking calendar. During this period grapes are picked, transported to the winery, and the winemaking process begins.  Vintage runs from about early February until around Easter, depending on the grape variety and the wine it will be made into. Right now, winemakers and grape growers are carefully monitoring ripening progress, and preparing wineries for the influx of fruit.

Grape growers are essentially farmers, so talk about how the season is going invariably becomes a discussion about the weather. South Australian summers are hot and dry, and this summer is no exception, but the Clare Valley’s climate is unique and is what allows us to grow warm climate varieties such as Shiraz side by side with cooler climate varieties such as Riesling. Maximum daytime temperatures in November 2015 were in the high 20s to low 30s, with only a couple of peaks in the mid 30s. This gave our grapes a good start, and the vines grew a lush leaf canopy, which gives the grapes good protection from the sun (essential for white grapes such as Riesling, which can suffer from sunburn).

December 2015 and the first couple of weeks of January 2016 were much hotter, with most days over 30 degrees and a maximum temperature of 41.7 degrees on December 17. When temperatures are this hot the vines respond similarly to people, taking it easy, conserving their energy and putting work (in this case ripening) on hold.  Nights however have been cooler, dropping to the low teens, with three nights in December below 10 degrees. These cooler nights give the vines some reprieve and help the fruit and plants to rehydrate. Despite the long hot spells and lack of soil moisture (you guessed it, we could do with a bit of rain – the last decent rainfall was on November 6) the developing grapes on our vines are hanging in there and doing what they are meant to.

Taking a walk between the rows this week, we were very excited to discover our reds are getting the first hints of colour (known as veraison), a great sign that ripening is progressing well.  Both red and white wine grapes both start off as small, hard, green berries, and over the coming weeks they will develop juice, plumpness, colour and softness as they get closer to harvest.

This is an exciting time for us as we keep our fingers crossed for favourable conditions - a splash of rain and a long and slow ripening period - to allow the complex flavours to develop in the grapes with the perfect balance of sweetness and acid.

If you are keen to get your hands on previous vintages of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling, pop across to our Online Cellar Door, where we have a great special on 2014 Riesling.