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
My dad dragged out a bottle of ‘86 Grange for Christmas lunch. It was great, always is.Between arguments over Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson (my Dad won, it was his Grange after all), we got to talking about this unique wine which over the past decade has evolved to be one of Australia’s biggest commodi [...]
In a word, wet. Another word, bloody. Bloody wet sums it up nicely actually.The vines are as happy as pigs in muck, the Vineyard team not so much...With over 50 times more winter rain than last year so far, and more days of rain than not, pruning was an absolute nightmare to finish. There is [...]
Happy vines make happy wine. And happy wines make a happy winemaker.So it was with the 2016 Vintage just finished.In one of my recent Ravings I may have given the wrong impression that I wasn’t happy when I moaned about all of the hurdles in front of us poor vignerons; from droughts to floods, frosts to heatwaves. [...]
Vignerons do not have a natural inclination towards optimism, and I’ll tell you why.It starts in winter each when pruners brave freezing cold and bitter winds to prune the dormant vines. It takes many months and is always a race to beat Spring’s wake-up call for the sleeping vineThen comes budburst, when the vine starts [...]
Dear Aunt Wine Agony,I have a particular grievance that may be ruining my life. It prevents me from enjoying dinner parties and I am even afraid to invite friends around for drinks anymore. I am a social outcast, desolated by blandness.In short, the wines I see lately in bottle shops are overpriced, overhyped and just plain boring. The Wine World seems [...]
Tannin is a strange beast, it is responsible not just for astringency and grip but also helps a red wine feel smooth and even sweet. The fact that one element can be responsible for both bitterness and silkiness is one of the most beguiling aspects of making wine.Mudgee – and Huntington Estate in particular – has some of the best, most [...]
Mudgee produces the best red wines in Australia.This is a claim that I am sure will be disputed by many but allow me some space to explain exactly why I feel this.There is no doubt our style of red wine is unique; we have high levels of high quality tannin and acid that can the [...]
I have often spoken of the need for old vines to produce our wines. Here goes an attempt to explain why.Firstly, what counts as an old vine? There are no official definitions but the general view is that anything over 30 years is old, although some vines in Australia’s more historic districts have managed to [...]
A bottle of wine from a single vineyard is truly rare and special.All year, year after year, vines are rooted to the one spot, growing and ripening their fruit amid sometimes dramatic climate changes. This year it’s floods, last year it was drought.The vigneron requires discipline and experience to be able to react to the [...]