“Delicate Flavours & Vibrant Natural Acidity” – Nick Toy
Whilst it was an absolute joy to have a vintage this year after the previous years’ calamitous bushfires and smoke taint events that resulted in a total crop loss in 2020, vintage 2021 was not without its’ challenges.
A warm, wet spring and early summer provided ideal conditions for early-mid season vegetative growth, resulting in extremely thick, vibrant vine canopies and good conditions for flowering and fruit set. These conditions were also favourable for potentially damaging mildews and fungal disease, but our spray program held up extremely well, mitigating any major problems with powdery or downy mildew. An unusually mild and often overcast January led to a slow and steady accumulation of grape sugars which was rudely interrupted by a trio of heavy rain events in late January/early February, dumping over 200mm of rain on the vineyard. Whilst this was a disaster for many producers in the North East, our vineyard once again showed its’ resilience with virtually no evidence of increased disease pressure or berry sugar dilution. It was pretty smooth sailing from then on, with mild, sunny days and cool nights the norm leading into and during our harvest period, which kicked off on February 22nd. These ideal ripening conditions provide a steady accumulation of sugars and allow our varieties to reach flavour (phenological) ripeness before reaching sugar ripeness. The cool nights also help to preserve the delicate flavours and vibrant natural acidity in the grapes.
It became evident early on during harvest that reduced berry size (which is closely related to temperature) was affecting almost all of our 22 varieties. Whilst this resulted in approximately 25% less crop than first expected, it has had a very positive effect on wine quality. The smaller grapes result in more intense, concentrated flavours, colours and tannins, a hallmark of virtually every wine from this years’ vintage. We hurriedly picked the last of our varieties on March 22nd, just in time to beat 3 days of heavy rain that was forecast.
Despite chronic labour shortages in the industry, we were blessed with an awesome picking crew this year, ably led by Feathertops’ vineyard superstar, Michael. They overdelivered on a daily basis, making my job in the winery that much easier.
At the time of writing, we still have a couple of late-ripening whites finishing off their ferments. I normally prefer wines to have some breathing space before I grade their quality, but I must say I am very excited about this years’ stable of wines. Across the board they are showing complexity and intensity in their flavour profiles and wonderful balance from the vibrant acid and tannin structures. Red wine colours are intense and slightly lower alcohol levels are only adding to the elegance provided by the milder ripening conditions. A few of the highlights at this stage are the complex, perfumed flavour profile of the Riesling, the Tempranillo bursting with juicy red berry flavours and the incredible colour and tannin structure of our first full crop of Montepulciano.
I can’t wait to see how each and every one of our wine babies develops over the coming months. We will bottle our first 2021 white wines in July of this year and I look forward to sharing a glass or two with you all.