Every vintage I have a bet with a mate to see who can make a public declaration that this one will be vintage of the century.
It’s a ritual begun by the winemakers of the Hunter Valley decades ago. Their wet and warm climate means every other vintage is, invariably, pretty ordinary. Getting in front of this challenge, they declare each and every vintage the best.
Marketing problem solved.
These days technological advances in the vineyard have allowed us all to improve our odds of at least reaching acceptable quality, allowing both marketers and winemakers to be more honest.
But in 2017, I can happily and genuinely declare a truly great vintage.
The reason for 2017’s excellence began 12 months ago. Great rains last winter ensured a full soil-moisture profile when the near 50 year old vines began growing in Spring. It was also cool, so our wise and happy old vines were not under pressure to grow quickly.
Consistent weather until late Summer also helped the vines gain enough strength to handle a couple of savage heatwaves just before ripening, which was marked by dry conditions ideal to stave-off any fungal diseases.
The fruit was picked fully ripe in terms of sugar and tannins, with almost all of the vineyard harvested before rains hit in April. The only fruit left at this time was our Late Harvest Semillon which was hit hard by botrytis bunch rot. Bad? No. Seriously good! This is the only wine that benefits from such rot and the resulting wine is already tasting amazing.
While this latter wine is undoubtedly the highlight of the vintage, our white wines from 2017 will be elegant and flavoursome, and the reds will be long-livers, with perfect tannin structures, excellent mid-palates and wonderful fruit vibrancy.
If I was writing a recipe for an ideal vintage the 2017 year would be the model. Throw in our remarkable old vines, and a very talented vineyard and winemaking team and this truly was the vintage of the century. Bet won.
Owner-Chief Winemaker, Huntington Estate
Photo: Amber Hooper
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