Vintage in the Hunter Valley

February 21, 2013, 5:03 pm Andrew Duff Yahoo7

Wine expert Andrew Duff explains exactly what 'vintage' means in the winemaking world and which ones from the Hunter Valley you should be trying.

Vintage in the Hunter Valley

This guest post comes from winemaker Andrew Duff at Tempus Two.

About Andrew:

Having grown up in Maitland with parents that were lovers of Hunter Valley wines, winemaking was a natural choice for Andrew, and one that he embraced even as a child. No matter whether he wanted to be a fireman one week or a watchmaker the next, just like his father, the sentence always ended with; ‘and own a vineyard when I grow up’.

Andrew joined Tempus Two as assistant winemaker back in 2008. Andrew's aim in the new role as winemaker is to maintain the high standard of production and further promote the range of Chardonnay, which he feels deserves greater recognition.

So what does ‘vintage’ mean? I’m sure you have heard it a lot in the winemaking world, but to clarify, ‘vintage’, is the process of harvesting the grapes and the initial stages of winemaking. A ‘vintage’ wine is one made from grapes that were all, or predominantly, grown and harvested in a single specified year. Almost all still wines come from a single vintage and the labels on the bottles will show the year in which the wine was made.

Wines vary from year to year because of the weather and overall climatic conditions. Even within the one region or location, climatic conditions can vary quite dramatically, from one year to the next. This is why wine flavours vary between vintages. To avoid this, many large producers will actually blend different regions to try to achieve consistency from year to year but these are usually the cheaper end wines and you will notice the region is listed as South Eastern Australia which covers the majority of Australia’s wine growing areas! Premium wines will be sourced from a single region and represent the flavours of the vintage.

So how is vintage going in the Hunter Valley, where Tempus Two’s home lies?

Well, I can confirm that we have picked all grapes for the year, which is quite early, due to the heat of the last month during the ripening period. During the growing season, we experienced scattered showers, especially through late December; however overall, the 2013 growing season has been reasonably dry. Hot days combined with cool nights have allowed for very good maturation of white grape flavour profiles and baumes (a measure of the sugar concentration in the juice or wine); but what is particularly exciting is how promising the reds are!

Great fruit flavours and early colouring is prominent across the region this season which is particularly refreshing given the limited number reds produced in 2012. Buyers will have to hunt for a good 2012 Hunter Shiraz, but they are out there. Contact Cellar Door for the Cellar Door exclusive Tempus Two 2012 Copper Hunter Valley Shiraz, in bottle already and looking to be a cut above! Whites from 2012 also appear to be generally softer, lower in alcohol and holding good acid line.

This season, conditions are ideal with somewhat earlier ripening than predicted, as mentioned above. Harvest kicked off a week earlier in January than was forecast prior to Christmas. Following some much needed rain for other agricultural industries, we have been given a great window of opportunity to let the ground dry up and leave our grapes out to develop a broader spectrum of ripeness. The result of this will hopefully see more complex whites and an even greater improved structure with our reds.

Here are some region heroes to try:

Thomas ‘Kiss’ Shiraz - $60.00

Tempus Two Copper Shiraz – cellar door only

Scarborough ‘Blue label’ Chardonnay - $18.99

Last blog: The difference between champagne and sparkling wine

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