The quality and potential of a vintage can mean very different things to different people.
For the growers, it is often about how easy or difficult the season was and whether it delivered healthy fruit, for winemakers it can similarly be about how easy or difficult it was to vinify the wines and whether they show the characters the winemakers thinks they should.
For wine drinkers it is often a question of is this delicious to drink now and for collectors; will this get better with age; 2017 was a vintage that was heralded as great in many regions, but the wines were often a little restrained at first, which may have sacrificed on their delicious factor in the early days.
Many of them have settled down now and are drinking superbly, but we are well and truly seeing the wines of 2018 hit shelves, so it’s worthwhile to check in on the 2018 season and resultant wines.
For many wine regions across Victoria, the 2018 season was a tale of two halves, winter and spring was cool and wet, which meant the vineyard teams had to be on top of their games to keep disease at bay.
The wet weather proved to be beneficial for most areas as the second half of the season was dry and warm, although importantly not too warm, with few sustained spikes over 35 degrees. The long, dry season meant that growers had a little bit of freedom in deciding when to pick as there was no pressure from deteriorating weather conditions and they could focus solely on the maturity of the fruit for their picking decisions.
It wasn’t without trouble though, Western Victoria around Great Western, the Grampians and Pyreneees saw a late frost hit in early November, which decimated vineyards for the upcoming harvest and will likely have impacted on the 2019 yields too.
The consistent theme has been that the warm, dry conditions allowed for the fruit to ‘set’ evenly (so there are few if any grapes that are lagging the rest of the grapes in ripeness at harvest time), the cool nights helped to retain ample acidity as the berries ripened slowly resulting in fruit that showed great concentration of flavour without sacrificing freshness.
For many wine drinkers, who are keen to open a bottle and see some enjoyment straight away, the 2018 vintage, so far, has
shown wines with plenty of freshness and vibrancy, but they are a little more cohesive at this point of their lives, a little denser and richer, which lends an immediate appeal to them that may not have shown through in the more delicate and finer-boned 2017s.
It is still early days, as for the time being we have only seen a few varieties such as Riesling from Best’s ($28) which is intensely lime-driven with acidity that carries it for days and leaves your mouth watering for more or the ‘Dry’ Riesling from Heroes ($32) in the Otway Hinterland, which is more mineral, with some floral notes and a pristine feel to it. Or Pinot Noir, which suffered just as much early on from 2017 as the wines were delicate and reticent.
The 2018 wines from Lethbridge for example with their Menage a Noir ($27) has a rich core qualities often found in the Moorabool.
Up in the Yarra Valley, the cooler sites continue to produce fantastic Pinot Noir with Wickhams Road ($19) and Hoddles Creek ($26) producing Pinots that again show slightly richer fruit and are integrated well enough to enjoy now. While many of the 2018s will provide enjoyment out of the gate, it’s worthwhile snapping up a 2017 or two if you can while they are still around to compare with their 2018 counterparts or just to revisit them with 12 more months in bottle.