Wineries and grape growers in the Mudgee region of NSW are celebrating what has been a surprisingly excellent vintage.
Following on from the similarly difficult vintage of 2021, most winemakers are breathing a sigh of relief, after another high rainfall year creating angst and the threat to lower the crop quality.
“Luckily, the gods were kind, and gave us some tough but manageable conditions, with just enough sun and dry spells to ripen the grapes well,” says Robert Stein winegrower Jacob Stein.
“We had more rain in the growing season of 2020/21 than in the 2021/22 season, but a lot less rain in February 2022 with only 49mm recorded. This allowed us to keep the fruit clean and it ripen well.”
The rain produced numerous downy events through the growing season, but most vineyards were vigilant enough to protect the fruit and produce good quality wine grapes leading into harvest.
There was a late start to harvest in 2022 with the sparkling base Chardonnay and Pinot Noir being picked on the second and third week of February, with early whites being harvested soon after and into early March.
“Fortunately, we then had four weeks of relatively drier weather, allowing us to concentrate on ripening red varieties. The cool, slow ripening conditions ensured natural acids were retained, with lower than normal baume. Flavours developed gradually, meaning whites like Riesling, and reds like Cabernet Sauvignon are particularly exciting.
“Most early red varieties including Shiraz were picked on the second and third week of March, before the rain events at the end of March. Vignerons were worried about the later red varieties, and some suffered but most powered through this rain event and we were lucky to have three weeks of dry weather to harvest Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and some later emerging varieties. “
The highlights of the vintage 2022 in Mudgee look to be early white varieties and Cabernet Sauvignon. Rosé is excellent and Riesling could be the overall star of this vintage. “It is exciting to see more batches of emerging red varieties such as Tempranillo, Barbera and Montepulciano, all looking excellent in barrel.”
All varieties show excellent natural acidity from the cooler vintage, with the region lucky to ripen them with harvest being in the middle of the major rain events and slightly lower cropping levels.
“Mudgee topography, with elevated and mostly sloping vineyard sites, and being a warm climate, was the major factor for us having a good vintage. Surprisingly, even in a wetter than normal year, most of the Shiraz is showing good concentration and light-medium body with bright purple colour and displays cooler spice and nice red fruit characteristics.
“With Mudgee cellar doors experiencing a massive influx of tourism and wine lovers, it’s the vintage we needed to fill up our cellars and keep our family owned cellar doors operating at full capacity into the year ahead.”
Jacob Stein – Director & Chief Winemaker, Robert Stein Winery, Mudgee NSW