Vintage is underway in Margaret River with some producers bringing in their first crops, mostly Chardonnay, while others wait with eager anticipation. The whole region should be in full swing by the end of February.
A colder-than-average winter made for a quick senescence and sound dormancy for the vines, and despite almost daily precipitation, we received markedly less-than-average rain in both June and July. Although the rainfall was down overall from the previous year, the region received sufficient supply to recharge soil moisture levels, setting the vines up with the required water for a promising season ahead.
Across the region, grape growers saw early spring budbursts and due to the cold winter temperatures, experienced quite a uniform break. Spring saw less rain than usual and some cool conditions. October was almost three degrees colder than average daily temperatures, which resulted in a slow start to canopy growth and protracted flowering for Chardonnay.
Low November rain slowed into an even drier December and January, with less than 2 mL of rain falling collectively for the whole summer season. Coupled with consistently warm, sunny days throughout January and no extreme heat, it proved to be an idyllic month for both grape growers and beachgoers alike. Nature’s air conditioner also played a part, with the cool southerly breeze blowing off the ocean and helping to retain natural acid in the fruit.
As the region’s 2022 Viticulture & Sustainability Excellence Award recipient, Alex Miller, who is also Technical Viticulturist at Voyager Estate writes, “I don’t want to jinx it, but the dreamy conditions rolling in to harvest, the warm February days and cool, still nights are starting to show us some exceptional fruit flavours. It’s a rewarding feeling when your season of hard work starts to shine.”
If you are in the region, you will notice the nets going on at a rapid rate. The Marri blossom is scarce this year, or perhaps just a bit delayed, which makes grapes an easy and delicious target for the native birds, Silvereye. Also out in the vineyard, final canopy manipulations and cutting out of hard green bunches ensure uniform ripening of the red varieties which will hang, soaking up sunshine for another month or two.
Producers across the region have enjoyed the extended summer and I suspect quite a few can be found down at the region's most popular surf breaks, basking in the last glimmers of sunshine and saltwater. There is plenty of anticipation in the region with the feeling that the wait has been well worth it. Adding to the excitement is that once again there is a contingent of international and interstate workers returning to the region to help with harvest. This always amplifies the fun pre-vintage vibes around the region.
If you happen to be one of the new arrivals to our breathtaking region, be sure to check out the Pre-Vintage 2023 Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony on Thursday 23rd February at 5:30 pm at Pioneer Park Amphitheatre, Cowaramup. It is a free event aimed at marking the start of the local wine community's busiest time of year, while also welcoming all the harvest workers that have come to assist. All members of the local community are welcome - it is sure to be a wonderful afternoon! Here’s to vintage 2023!