In Langhorne Creek annual rainfall (264mm) and especially winter rainfall was well below average (average annual rainfall is 384mm), similar to the rest of the country. All months experienced below average rainfall except for November and December and oddly, December was the highest rainfall month for the year at 47mm. This certainly helped with setting up canopies for the warm summer ahead.
The summer was dry and hot, with 46.7 deg C recorded on the 24th of January in nearby Strathalbyn setting a new record – a common story across South Australia. The early season weather gave us the impression we may suffer high crop losses as we did in 2009 and a few blocks suffered excess berry shrivel and crop loss as expected. However good irrigation management and some good luck prevailed. Overall we suffered only minor losses with the reduced quantity compensated by quality. The reliable cooling southerly breezes from Lake Alexandrina on most evenings during the summer and autumn ripening periods made the difference yet again.
The harvest started on time with Verdelho on the 11th of February and Adelaide Hills whites following soon after on the 21st, overlapping with Langhorne Creek reds until the 5th of March. Red harvest in Langhorne Creek also commenced on the 21st of February, a rapid harvest with last crush at Bleasdale five weeks later on the 28th of March.
The warmer than average conditions encouraged us to harvest quickly to capture natural acidity and fresh fruit flavours. The lower than average crops (40-50% down) in the Adelaide Hills has resulted in above average alcohol levels with intense flavours. Langhorne Creek yields have ranged in the extreme from full crop to a complete write-off; luckily, both ends of the spectrum were rare. We estimate that overall Langhorne Creek may harvest approximately 20% less than average with Bleasdale only 10% short of planned harvest due to some excellent vineyard management from our Viticulturalist, Sarah, and our growers.
Low rainfall helped manage disease pressure and reduced excess vigour on floodplain blocks, but many crops were a bit light. A compressed, but trouble-free harvest with excellent wine quality; the better wines are particularly good, with well-defined tannins and a generous palate. Shiraz and Grenache appear to be leading the pack, with some good Malbec. There is a small amount of particularly strong Cabernet and I suspect blending (as always) will yield the best results.
Paul Hotker, Senior Winemaker