Vintage Report 2021: Orange NSW

Vintage 2021 was a great relief for the Orange region winegrowers. The mild 2021 vintage in the Orange Region ensured that sparkling and white wines will be crisp and lively due to the natural acid retention, a factor of this particular season.

The region’s red varieties that were harvested at good ripeness are showing excellent quality, albeit in small volumes. This was largely dependent on vineyard management, location, variety and timing of rain events late in the season.

“With four years of drought, the welcome rain ensured that the Orange vintage would restore more normality to the region’s winemaking.

“While the quality of the 2021 wines is strong, the effects of the drought bore their mark, with lower-than-average yields recorded,” said Swinging Bridge winemaker and Orange Region Vignerons’ Association President, Tom Ward.

“There have been some very positive signs for this vintage since we received 102 mm of rain in October. This was a 5-times the rain we had received in the previous October, and with warmer temperatures in November, the vines had a great start.”

While the growing season was good, conditions relating to the drought and subsequent low moisture during the start of the season caused reduced vine capacity, bud fruitfulness and increased fruitless shoots. Those vineyards that had water in 2019 and 2020 fared better.

One of Orange’s major grape growers, Angullong’s Ben Crossing said, “Our vineyard was in a positive position leading into the 2021 vintage. We had water in 2020 so the vines weren’t stressed during budburst. However, hail over our vineyard during October knocked our flowering.

”After that, the rain and warmer weather gave us excellent fruit. With our vineyards sitting on the 600-metre regional boundary, and so being slightly warmer than the higher vineyards, we ripened both white and red varieties beautifully.

“Mild weather, particularly in January, allowed the fruit to ripen more slowly than in recent years, which ensured excellent flavour development as harvest approached. The mild season also meant that harvest, with smaller bunches and berries, started a week or so later than we expected.

“The final result for the year was far less irrigation for a much bigger and better canopy, milder weather causing no sunburn or heat stress, and much improved ripening conditions across the board. The vines are also much healthier after harvest, setting things up for a good start to next season,” concluded Crossing. “The quality of the wine is excellent.”

On the higher elevations of Mount Canobolas, winemaker Will Rikard-Bell saw yields reduced up to 50 percent, however the quality is impressive.

“I’ve never seen such lovely natural acidity in all my vintages in Orange or elsewhere. Incredible. Look out for the sparkling and early season varieties from this year, there’s such fragrance in the aromatics and intensity and brightness in the fruit. Best ever.”

The key to the success of the 2021 Orange Region vintage was judicious vineyard management. This included a regime of mowing mid-rows and controlling under-vine areas along with maintaining a practical and continual spray coverage for downy and powdery mildew.

“2021 Vintage in Orange will be a vintage to remember. With the drought breaking, the fruit that was harvested has developed into outstanding quality wine; whites with lovely natural acidity and fruit purity. The reds that were harvested will be exceptional, although the low yields will see them released in very limited quantities,” concluded Ward.

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Thanks to Darren Fahey, Development Officers – Viticulture, NSW Dept of Primary Industries for his valuable input for this vintage report.