Montalto Sculpture Prize 2016
Tucked in amongst the wetlands and vines or …
Across many of Australia’s wine regions, Vintage 2016 is either already underway or very close. Vintage, in winemaking, is the process of picking grapes and creating the finished product; in other words, the grape harvest. A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily (a minimum of 85%), grown and harvested in a single specified year. Therefore a wine’s vintage tells you in which year the grapes were picked.
You may have heard the term non-vintage in reference to wine. This usually means the wine has been produced by blending the produce of two or more years. This practice is most commonly used to produce a wine of consistent taste and quality year after year. Fortified and sparkling wines are quite often made this way.
Occasionally if weather conditions have been particularly unfavourable, and the quality of the grapes is not sufficient, a producer may decide not to produce a single vintage wine, or ‘declare a vintage’, and may instead release a blend of previous vintages.
Different grape varieties respond to different conditions in their own way. On the whole, for instance, Shiraz responds particularly well to dry, sunny conditions that favour the ripening of its sugars, that’s why growers in the Barossa Valley have been particularly successful in producing wines made from this grape. In Tasmania however, the cool climate resulting from its southerly latitudes and surrounding ocean is highly beneficial to grapes such as Pinot Noir which flourish over a longer ripening period.
Different grapes are therefore harvested at different times and, across Australia, vintage 2016 will vary in timing across the different regions. In the Hunter Valley, the harvest usually lasts about six weeks beginning with white varieties including Semillon and Chardonnay in mid-January, before ending in February with the reds. In the cooler climate regions however vintage will start later, often as late as April in Tasmania.
So there is much activity in the wineries over the next few months. A stressful and exciting time for winemakers, an exhausting time for pickers and a fascinating time for wine-enthusiasts as the impacts of various climatic conditions reveal themselves in the characters of the final results.