Vintage 2017 is over, and what a long, and strange, one it was. Every vintage is different; lessons learned from the previous year don’t always help the following year.
2017 vintage started late, two to three weeks later than the preceding couple of years. Early ripening varieties such as Chardonnay were harvested at the end of February through the first half of March. The reason for this was the mild, cool spring weather experienced all across the southern part of the state. This can be quite beneficial as cool ripening conditions helps maintain the fresh, bright aromas of these early white varieties. Varieties like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from 2017 are quite stunning in their liveliness and flavour at relatively low alcohol levels.
During the middle and latter part of March the South-West region including Margaret River experienced a very unusual amount of rain and very cool weather, ripening over this period was very slow. The first suggestions of worry started to appear in growers eyes. Of recent history Margaret River has experienced very dry conditions in March and early April with the season breaking mid to late April, not a problem with all the grapes picked. But this year the concern was that if the season broke in mid April all the red grapes would be still on the vine. However anyone that lived though the late April and early May in the South-West of Western Australia will testify that never had we had a better, warmer early autumn. It was simply perfect; cool crisp mornings and evenings but beautiful warm and sunny days; not too hot, textbook conditions for great ripening especially for the key Margaret River variety Cabernet Sauvignon.
2017 may well prove to be a classic Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon year, a year like 1994 with great flavours and mature tannin at lower alcohol levels. Elegant rather than robust, flavour rather than force.
We will see.