Monday, February 27, 2012

McLaren Vale Vintage Report - Part 1

Grape harvesting in the McLaren Vale wine region is progressing very well.  The harvest is running earlier than average, following on the trend first seen by an early grapevine bud burst and flowering last spring.
Summer has been warm, but vineyards have been spared the trials of extended heat waves and also heavy rain showers. The weather has been ideal for ripening except for some sites being exposed to high strength gully winds. While wind damage has left these vineyards looking a little rough round the edges, fruit quality has been unaffected.
Shiraz begging to be picked.
At the end of February, most white grapes varieties and approximately half of the Shiraz crop has been picked, with some early Grenache also being taken into wineries.
The 2012 Lazy Ballerina Shiraz, based on fruit from the famous Inkwell vineyard, was picked on the 22nd of February. This was early and in line with the other 'A-Grade' vineyards in similar sites.
Dudley Brown and James working the crusher and de-stemer.
Winemakers reports so far have been glowing, and the Lazy Ballerina vintage is no exception.
Of course winemaking is always subject to the weather and it is possible something could change between now and when the last grape load goes into the crusher.  However, story so far is a great year for all varieties in 2012 which will strengthen McLaren Vale’s reputation as one of the world’s great wine regions.
The chances are, your favourite winery, be that Chapel Hill, Olivers Taranga, Paxtons, Coriole, Chalk Hill or another is sitting on some of its best fruit in years.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Low clouds, high winds and vintage in McLaren Vale

20/12/2012 – At this time of the year grapegrowers are constantly looking at the weather. The pictures on this page show a common localised weather pattern in the McLaren Vale Wine Region. Locals call it a gully breeze.

In this picture a strong breeze is blowing from the ‘range’ (the Southern Mt Lofty Ranges) towards the camera, while a ‘range cloud’ sits on top of the hills. These 'range cloud' conditions slow grape and horticultural ripening rates, in February, March and April, on the Fluerieu and at Kuitpo. The corresponding gully breeze is famous for its strength and duration in McLaren Vale.

The technical name for this cloud formation and accompanying wind is 'Orographic.' Orographic clouds form when humid air blows over the top of the hill range. The air first rises to go over the hill range then, on the downwind side of the range, the air sinks back into the valley and warms. During warming the water droplets (i.e., clouds) evaporate into invisible water vapor.

Humid air moves from the left, eg. Lake Alexandrina and Encounter Bay, is pushed up across the Fluerieu, until it rapidly falls down the leedward side spilling into the McLaren Vale region - right.
It is fascinating to watch orographic clouds and understand that a single cloud is not hanging onto the mountain range. Rather the cloud is rapidly forming and dissipating at the speed of the wind as air rises over the mountain range then sinks on the other side. The parcel of air suddenly becomes visible as it passes over the top of the mountains and clouds temporarily form.