There’s always a collective sigh of relief when the grapes are safely in the winery and our winemaking team can start making the next vintage of Best’s wines. Slightly lower yields in 2019 have resulted in more concentration, but the perfume and persistence of these wines will ensure this is a great vintage in Great Western. Best’s winemaker, Justin Purser, shares his thoughts on vintage 2019.
The team at Best’s are very excited about how vintage 2019 has played out, despite it being one of the hottest and driest summers on record. We managed to avoid the frosts that threatened to do serious damage for the second year in a row, meaning that we were able to produce more of the small parcel releases that we could not harvest the previous year. The small amount of rain we eventually received ensured the vines survived any heat stress.
In December, we purchased a new vineyard in Great Western which we’ve named Sugarloaf Creek Vineyard, to guarantee our supply of high-quality shiraz and cabernet into the future. It’s broadened the supply from our vineyards and meant that we had additional fruit sourcing to choose from.
Our Winemaker Justin Purser shares his thoughts on what to expect from our 2019 wines in his vintage overview.
Summer 2018/19 was one of the hottest and driest summers on record. This made vineyard management very challenging, but we did secure adequate supplies of water beforehand, so they managed well, and our use of protective sprays was negligible.
Frost management was a key priority this year and the team was determined to trial new methods to avoid the devastating losses of the prior vintage. We worked with Grampians Helicopters (who also do scenic flights to our vineyards and cellar door) to ensure that the cold air in the vines never stayed there for long. They did an amazing job, with the help of some light-show wizardry that highlighted any areas that are near to freezing and therefore at risk of frost damage.
With adequate supplies of water, the vineyards had a good start, although stiff winds during spring limited the flowering and hence the potential fruitfulness of the vines. We also had some hot days in January and early February, which made the vines prioritise leaf health over ripening. It amazes me how some of the old dry-grown vines automatically desiccate some exposed bunches to preserve the leaves and shaded bunches.
Our House Block Riesling was the first fruit picked on 27 February. It was a fast start, with riesling, pinots and dry-grown shiraz all ripe and picked in the first week of March. It made for some long days, with one epic day that included five press loads of whites.
Then, with the warm weather, the Concongella Vineyard got its game face on and we picked as fast as we could to bring in the pinot meunier and the old-vine shiraz.
Fortunately, in early March, the weather cooled off and we were given a beautiful long ripening period for the remainder of the riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir, shiraz and cabernets.
The season progressed well, with most of shiraz picked by 1 April (no joke!) and the fruit quality generally looking very good to excellent, especially the reds. We finished picking on 17th April, with the historic Nursery Block being amongst the last to be picked. It’s always a special vineyard to harvest, a job that all of the Best’s team including some of the sixth generation Thomson family members got involved in to pick the grapes by hand.
Photo: Viv Thomson and granddaughter Isabelle
While yields were down about 10% on average, concentration and flavour were high. At this stage, the vintage is reminiscent of 2014’s – another high-quality vintage for Great Western. The stand-outs so far are chardonnay, Old Vine Pinot Meunier and Thomson Family Shiraz. It also seems to be a very good year for shiraz with concentration and finesse.
All in all, there’s every reason for us to be excited about Best’s Great Western latest vintage, so stayed tuned to find out more – and taste the results.