Theoretically, this post should only be about reviews and vintage updates. Whilst we have had a few new reviews published in the past week (I will post them, in a separate post, after this blog entry), vintage 2011 for us, aside from the transporting of barrels of our 2009 and 2010 reds to our local bottling facility, has not yet started.
After months of summer-pruning, mowing (more than usual, due to the constant rains and higher growth rate), spraying (again, due to the unseasonal wet conditions), the laborious task of getting bird-netting on to protect the moreso than usual, valuable fruit, our vintage has looked a bit grim and as of today, though we have done a few baume' tests, not a single grape has been harvested from our special little hill-top vineyard.
Our eighty-year old riesling grapes are always the first to come off, and they are sitting, waiting, perhaps even sleeping in this cool weather, thinking that perhaps, this year they will amount to nothing. The flavours of the fruit are amazing. I tasted some juice only last week, and to think there may not be enough of a crop off the tiny block to warrant the high costs of processing (there is a minimum tonnage limit, so if we pick only one tonne, we still pay the fees for three tonne/five, or whatever it is - can't be bothered finding the contract, sorry), is a damn shame. We usually pick between two to two and a half tonne but it's most doubtful that we will get near that in 2011.
Economic viability is important, no matter how passionate one is. It simply will not be in our best interest to spend so much money on making a fabulous wine, that to make it worthwhile, we would have to charge $35 or $40 a bottle for. Maybe more, even. I think you get the idea. Our reds will be the same, but the costs are more drawn out, so that decision will be made at the time that it needs to be made.
Our grapes all taste amazing, and an article in last week's local paper quoted the very talented Louisa Rose, as saying that the flavours will be magnificent, despite the difficult conditions. Crops are down, state-wide more than likely. Too much rain, and the lack of the usual South Australian hot dry summer has been a little too much for the vines to bear. I guess we can't have a cracker year, every year. Ask the cereal farmers.
From my perspective, the Barossa and Eden Valleys, and the people, seem somewhat in limbo. I'm sure we are not the only region. Normally, the roads are full of hustle and bustle. During a normal vintage, as I drive to work each day, the vineyards are lined with cars, pickers' heads popping up and down throughout random vineyards, harvesters or tractors holding me up as I travel down Mengler's Hill. Quite simply, it appears to be happening in dribs and drabs, as opposed to its usual ferocity. Some people's faces are showing the stress of their hard work of the previous year amounting to little product or payment.
As stated in my recent Fear and Loathing post, it's already a savage industry. It's about to get worse. Some families/wineries may not make it; if the sale of the grapes fall through ie no crops, or not good enough quality. Botryitis is rife, in many South Australian vineyards. We have all battled mildew. It's hard work running a vineyard and at times like this, I am grateful that our incomes from the grapes and wine are not responsible for feeding our family, or paying the household bills. I am also thankful that Karra Yerta has enough stock from previous vintages to tide us over at the Collective Barossa shop, if at worst, we produce hardly any wine under our label, this year.
My heart goes out to those who are struggling, and my admiration to those who are in their vineyards, probably right now, cutting the diseased bunches out slowly, and thoroughly, by hand so that their crops will be as good as possible. No doubt, as Louisa Rose said, there is the potential to have some absolutely stunning wines produced from this incredibly difficult season.
It's going to be a struggle, and the good thing about the Barossa is that our german heritage stands us in good stead to put our heads down, work hard, and find a way through. I'm not sure how some will manage, but they will. The money factor will be hard and no doubt there will be many struggles to find funds to pay the bills, but Mother Nature has made it clear, that from all levels, perhaps only the strong will survive.
Sometimes, as much as we rely on it, "Money" is not the thing that gives us the resilience we need - sometimes it's the passion. On that note, I am off to buy myself a football team...... Or, perhaps just watch one, whilst indulging in a fine glass of Barossa red, and pondering as to when, or if, I will have to wash out the grape-buckets.
PS. The photo below, of vines on Basedow Road, Tanunda, was taken on November 24, 2010. This photo pretty well sums up what most of our summer weather has been like. Not what it should be, at all.