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Tim's Ravings

Posted by Tim Stevens on

Vintage 2023 Report

Cold, wet, an unbelievably slow ripening period, very drawn out, and possibly the greatest Mudgee red wine vintage ever...

It must be a figment of my imagination. Was it only a couple of years ago that drought and extreme heat battered us? Harvests – when not lost to bushfire smoke taint – were in January and early February. Vines struggled for survival. Roots retreated from baked soil and were left to suckle from a tiny zone under drippers.

Abundant winter rain and cooler temperatures in winter led to a late start to the growing season. The full moisture profile was like waking up in a big, comfy bed – the weary vines wanted to stay asleep just a few minutes more. After three years of amazing rain, milder temperatures and no heatwaves, the old vines could be forgiven for being a bit wary.

Once they had woken up, boy were they full of energy. Their roots raced out and grabbed all the sustenance they could, leading to canopies about three time the size of just a few years earlier. Through spring and summer, the vines luxuriated in the cooler temperatures and wetter soils, taking their sweet time to grow their berries.

The result was one of the latest vintages we've ever seen, 8 weeks later than recent drought vintages and a month later than average.

The final ripening happened in cool, dry conditions, ideal for flavour, acid and tannin development. In late summer and autumn Mudgee was blessed to be in a rain shadow compared to neighbouring regions.

The latest variety, grenache, was picked in early May, just days before the first frosts hit. Yields on all varieties were only slightly above average.

All varieties achieved full ripeness with reds excelling in terms of the strongest colors I have seen in Mudgee. Shiraz was undoubtedly the standout, showing vibrant and generous fruit flavours underpinned by ripe, fine tannins. Most are now in barrels where they will remain for a further year.

We won’t know for sure for two years or more, but I predict 2023 will go down as one of the greatest Mudgee vintages on record for red wines.

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