There is a better than even chance that every grape grower and winemaker in the Yass Valley region is licking their lips with the anticipation of a cracking harvest this year. After much hand wringing and teeth grinding over the failed harvest in 2020 due to the scourge of smoke taint, most are sporting a smile on their dial and a spring in their step. Some white wine stocks are way down, perhaps non-existent in some cases, so the prospect of quality grapes, picked and delivered safely to the winery, is a pleasing one.
The Yass Valley region has received good rainfall throughout the growing season so far. While we witnessed a relatively mild summer, plentiful water, sunny days and cool evenings created perfect conditions for a bumper harvest. Grape growers have had their issues dealing with the warm and sometimes humid conditions being just right for vine diseases such as downy and powdery mildew.
Vineyard tractors have been out often as they spray to prevent such diseases from taking hold in their vineyards.
Rightly so, too – the financial and emotional impacts of a second successive failed harvest don’t bear thinking about.
In many warmer parts of Australia, vintage (or harvest) has well and truly begun, with many white varieties in these areas already being picked. Due to the relatively cool climate here in the Yass Valley region, vintage time can be a little later as the grapes take a little longer to ripen to optimum levels.
Some wineries here though, have already started harvesting their bounty. The Vintner’s Daughter, for example, has already picked their Gewurztraminer, which is an early ripening, aromatic grape variety.
Not all grape varieties are picked at the same time.
White grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are often picked earlier in the season’s harvest window.
Winemakers generally like these varieties to have nice acid levels and are picked when there is a lovely balance of acidity, freshness, and sugar levels. Chardonnay might stay on the vine a little a bit longer to develop richer, more complex fruit flavours while maintaining nice acid.
Two stand-out superstars of the Yass Valley red wine world are Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Shiraz grapes tend to ripen earlier than Cabernet and so will be some of the first red grapes onto the wine production line. Cabernet takes a little longer to achieve the right balance of robust fruit flavours, acidity and sugar levels.
It won’t be long before the busiest period on the winemaker’s calendar kicks into high gear. They’re likely to be highly strung, stressed and exhausted, but at least they’ll be smiling.
The image at the top is Poachers Vineyard