If you follow any of the Yass Valley region winery social media pages, you’ll have noticed that the posts are thick and fast with plenty of vineyard ventures. You will see photos of pickers plying their trade with buckets and bins full of beautifully formed bunches. Photos of shiny, stainless-steel contraptions crushing grapes into their component parts – juice, pulp, skins, seeds and stalks. More images of nets being cast, creating ghostly vineyard veils to ward off the relentless and determined flying foes. Vintage 2022 is well underway.
Grape growers and winemakers will walk side-by-side down vineyard rows, picking, tasting, and testing the grapes for ripeness, sugar levels, acidity, and flavour complexity. Getting the balance of these factors is key. Every variety will be in a different state of readiness. There are even different states of ripening readiness between the same grape variety in different vineyard locations across the Yass Valley region. The effect of micro-climate can also be seen in different parts of the same vineyard. Grapes situated on a North facing slope might be picked at a different time than the same grapes on a less elevated plain. This varietal vintage variation is often the reason why winemakers will pick grapes and make wine in separate, location-based batches, and then blend into the final, finished wine.
Grapes used for the making of sparkling wines will be among the first into the winery. A key component of good sparkling wine is acidity and picking them earlier in the vintage cycle ensures the Chardonnay or Pinot Noir grapes are of just the right balance of acidity and flavour. I’ve seen Pinot Gris grapes already picked and ready to do their thing in the winery. Muscat grapes have been picked and will be used in the production of the fortified wine of the same name. There are posts of picture-perfect Riesling grapes on the verge of their vintage too. Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay won’t be far away.
The red wine varieties may linger a little longer in the vineyard, as they continue to ripen with colour deepening, sugar levels rising and flavour complexity more compelling. We might see Shiraz ready to rock and roll from the beginning of April and Cabernet a little later than that.
While there’s a sense of excitement and anticipation, there’s always a hint of the weather-driven nervous nellies too. A late-season hailstorm can cause heartbreak. A sudden down-pouring deluge so close to harvest can cause grapes to swell, split and disease, only to be rendered unusable.
To our Yass Valley winemakers – our fingers and toes are crossed for you and Vintage 2022.
Yass Valley Times Wine Columnist