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Vintage Report

The Hunter Valley is the earliest region in Australia to commence harvesting grapes each year. You may recall that the Hunter Valley had an extremely wet year in 2011/2012. This culminated in hardly a red grape being picked in the Hunter for the 2012 vintage with the majority of the crop being lost to disease brought about by the excessive rainfall and humidity.

An explanation: When we refer to disease in the main we mean fungus or mould. As grapes ripen they turn from small hard berries into larger softer berries. As this ripening takes place the skins get softer and more pliable. When there is excessive rainfall the grapevines very efficient root system pumps water from the soil through the vine and into the leaves and berries.

This water initially dilutes flavour and acid but then fills the berry too full. The grape skin stretches to accommodate the increase in liquid in the berry until (like a balloon being inflated) it reaches the point where it cannot stretch any further and it breaks open.

Once the skin is broken the juice leaks out, it is then subject to attack by indigenous yeasts, that exist naturally in the vineyard, as well as moulds which are commonly referred to as mildew. Once this starts to happen, with warm to hot weather and high humidity, the mould becomes rampant and moves through the vineyard with amazing speed infecting bunches in random fashion eventually ruining the entire crop. We cannot use the diseased fruit because it has a very bad taste and would not be very pleasant to drink if we made wine from it.

Because of our winemaking philosophy – “Quality without compromise” – we shall never try to make wine from inferior grapes.

It has taken so many years of hard work to build Mistletoe as a creditable and reliable producer of quality wine there is no way we shall ever drop our standards. We do apply regular sprays to protect against mildew but with excessive rain these treatments are either diluted or washed off the fruit allowing nature to take its detrimental course.

During the 1970’s the Hunter experienced quite a few wet years with many growers despairing at the loss of their crops in consecutive years. The Hunter Valley now appears to be in another wet cycle with the area having experienced three very wet vintages (2008, 2012 and 2013) in the last 6 years. We had some really heavy rainfall early in 2012 but then encountered an extremely dry Spring.

All the vines looked fantastic and by mid December 2012 we could see we may have an exceptional vintage in 2013. The rain commenced on Christmas Day and we thought that a little would do no harm. However, up until today’s date the Hunter’s official rainfall from January 1st is shown as 303mm. 12 inches, or one foot of rain on the old scale. The official records show the average rainfall for the same period (January and February) for the years 1969-2012 is 180mm! This means we have had 68% more rain for January/February 2013 than the long term historical average.

Mistletoe has been spending every effort in the vineyards we own and manage to ensure we grow the best quality fruit we can on a very consistent basis. One of the techniques we use is to restrict the cropping levels of the vines. We do this by pruning and restricting the amount of fruit that develops. What this does is allows the grapes to ripen earlier and better. This worked very well for us this year.

The grape harvest for Mistletoe Vintage 2013 commenced on January 21st. As mentioned earlier the prediction leading up to harvest was for one of the best red and white vintages ever seen in the Hunter Valley. Everyone was cautiously optimistic that the weather would hold and we would have a very high quality vintage.

At Mistletoe we harvested all our white grapes prior to the rain event associated with ex tropical cyclone Oswald which headed our way and dumped nearly 200mm of rain in a week. We have been very fortunate to have fared better than most growers/winemakers, some of whom have not harvested a single grape.

Vintage in the Hunter finished for us with the harvesting of two very high quality Shiraz blocks in excellent condition.