Best’s Vintage 2017 Wrap-Up
Justin Purser, Best’s Winemaker
What an amazing few months it has been for the team at Best’s Great Western. Harvest has seen us enjoy a record intake of fruit with more than 700 tonnes coming into the winery. Our focus has since moved to ensuring the grapes receive loving care in their transformation from grapes to wine.
So why so much fruit in 2017? The last few seasons in Great Western have been lean to say the least, with frost and dry conditions taking their toll. So early in the season, when we realised that conditions were good for the impending months ahead and the quality of the vines in spring 2016 was high, we took a gamble and secured extra fruit from our growers. Thankfully, the season progressed with near-perfect conditions – mild weather and intermittent rain, but warm enough in spring to ensure good fruitfulness, ripening and excellent fruit quality.
Other surrounding regions experienced detrimental rainfall in January but it was less heavy in Great Western and largely beneficial for our grapes that didn’t ripen until late March and throughout April, which was nearly five weeks later than the 2016 season and two weeks later than recent averages. Overall, our own vineyards did especially well, with good yields and great quality.
In the wine world, we live around the vagaries of the weather so to have such an optimistic season like this, when the rainfall comes at the right time (and doesn’t affect ripening by falling at the wrong time) and there are no heatwaves or frosts to contend with, it is truly a cause for celebration.
Already we have great batches of 2017 wine in the cellar, with Riesling and Shiraz looking particularly good. The only downside was that some vineyards had a little too much fruit and therefore the flavours were a little dilute, but with all the other good batches, I am sure the overall quality of 2017 wines will be memorable.
With all the hours we’ve been putting in, it’s rewarding to see the wines looking so good. We have one more batch to press, which is Pinot Noir from the old block that was picked two months ago. It smells and tastes great, so it will be pressed off after two months on skins.
So how did we celebrate? We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the end of the harvest at our favourite local restaurant Steel Cutters Cottage. We presented awards to Best’s hard-working team members – one notable award was given to Claudio from Italy, who managed to receive three speeding fines within a few weeks (his nickname became Fangio) but he also did a great job cleaning and sealing up our old vats for the new wines. He was awarded a handbrake and an old vat door to hang around his neck in the hope that it might slow him down a bit in the future. Our French team members have now departed for France and Claudio is leaving for Italy this weekend. It’s certainly sad to see them go.
Best’s cellar is now returning to some kind of normality, with that other great time of year we love looming – bottling!