JUST WINE: Year of weather extremes leading to the vintage of the century

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING: Night harvest of excellent grapes from the Orange Wine Region. Photo: CONTRIBUTED
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING: Night harvest of excellent grapes from the Orange Wine Region. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

What a difference a year makes.

The 2017 vintage and growing season will go down in history as a year of extremes.

Last winter was a season of extreme rain – a record for Orange in June and big falls in August and September.

This, on the positive side, gave growers a full soil moisture profile.

On the negative side lots of moisture slowed bud-burst and restricted tractor work.

And this summer was a season of extreme heat – record high temperatures for Orange through January and February peaking on Saturday, February 11 with a scorching 40 degree Celcius recorded.

That’s extreme for around here.

On the positive side, warm dry conditions and lots of UV means low disease and high potential colour.

On the negative side, there is a risk of water stress.

Looking around the region, the vine canopies are holding up remarkably well and early reports of fruit quality are very encouraging.

And where is it up to?

All of the fruit for sparkling wine has been picked and early whites are starting to come in – at 750 metres and below Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc have been picked and Chardonnay is starting to come in.

From a grape-growers perspective these warm, dry days are perfect and the storm rain last weekend gave the vines (and the land generally) a welcome drink.

The verdict? Definitely an excellent growing season. Perhaps the vintage of the century? Only time will tell.

Happy vintage and cheers.

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