Orange experienced a nervous lead up to the 2022 vintage. It was the coolest and latest vintage in 20-odd years.

A wet winter had filled dams and the soil moisture profile which augured well. This rain continued, with harvest initially looking to be quite wet. However, the rain held off for the month leading up to harvest, ensuring excellent regional cool climate flavour development and ripeness.

The cool growing season was particularly wet with over 500mm of rain during November to January (more than half the average yearly rainfall for the region). The challenges were augmented with hail and frost episodes in various vineyards.

The rain caused ongoing disease pressures, however most growers had judicious vineyard management programs in place to protect the grapes. This included spray regimes to combat potential mildew and regular slashing to manage undergrowth issues along with leaf plucking, trimming and crop thinning to ensure good fruit set.

Fortunately, the rain subsided significantly in the lead up to harvest, which eased disease pressure and allowed the fruit to ripen. This ripening was later than average due to the cooler temperatures throughout summer. Temperatures recorded over December to February did not exceed 30 degrees, which is up to 9 degrees cooler than the average highest temperature during this period (see charts below).

“The low-pressure systems over the NSW east coast kept the Orange’s temperatures lower than average. These systems tended to push the front south, helping to keep the region dry,” reported Orange Region Vignerons’ Association President and Swinging Bridge Winemaker Tom Ward. “The highlights for us include Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from across our vineyards at elevation of 900 to 1100m. With the wines now in barrel, it is shaping up to be one of the best vintages we have experienced for a good while.”

“Whilst well accustomed the cool temperatures, this late ripening caused some anxiety, especially with the prospect of rain looming. When harvest begun up to three weeks later that average, volumes across all varieties were higher than the 2021 vintage, although still below average.  With a return to the classic cooler (pre-drought) vintage, the wines are showing pristine natural acidity and flavour,” said Angullong vigneron Ben Crossing.

“The sparkling base is world-class from all elevations and aspects,” commented Rikard Wines owner and winemaker, Will Rikard-Bell. “Chardonnay is always a standout, with 2022 highlighted by its fine-boned, acid and power. Pinot Noir is showing deep colour, structure, and beautiful dark cherry varietal characters. The quality of the Shiraz from the region was dependent on sites, with the lower elevations showing attractive pepper and forest fruit flavours.

“The long growing season and extended hang time on the vine meant there was fabulous physiological ripeness without excessive alcohols this year. Our first fruit came into the winery on the 28th February, and the last bin was in on the 6th May.

“The colour, tannins, aroma are all off the chart. We found a lot of fruit came in at quite low Baumes despite full flavour-ripeness. The wines from 2022 will be incredibly long-lived and looked back upon as one of the classic vintages.”

Excellent canopy growth and soil moisture has potentially setup the vineyards for an excellent 2023 vintage.

Rikard Vineyard, Mount Canobolas, Orange NSW

Charts from the Bureau of Meteorology, 2021-2022

Rikard Wines. Photo: Pip Farqhuarson