Vintage variation not just Old World issue

A number of Australia’s top producers have highlighted the extent to which vintage variation is an under-estimated factor in the country’s wines.

“Customers of French fine wines are used to vintage variation, but if Australia tried to talk about that all hell would break loose,” Colin Campbell, winemaker of Campbells Wines in Rutherglen, told the drinks business at a London event organised by Australia’s First Families of Wine.

“It’s our own fault,” he continued. “We built an image by saying we have sunshine every year and it’s given us an industrial reputation.”

Speaking against the backdrop of intense focus on Bordeaux’s 2011 vintage, Jeff Burch, CEO of Burch Family Wines, which includes Howard Park in Margaret River, confirmed: We get vintage variation but probably not to the extent they do in Burgundy or Bordeaux.”

However, he added: “With global warming and technology now, there’s probably not as much variation in Bordeaux as there used to be.”

Relating this to the most recent 2012 vintage in his own region, Burch predicted: “2012 could be the best in 10 years.” By contrast he flagged up 2006 as “a shocker – the reds just didn’t ripen.”

Chester Osborne, winemaker at D’Arenberg in McLaren Vale, was similarly upbeat about the quality of 2012 in his region. “All the wines look fantastic in 2012. It looks a lot like 2010,” he observed.

As for the subject of vintage variation, Osborne agreed: “It absolutely happens.” In particular he pointed to Grenache as a variety that “expresses vintages enormously, a bit like Pinot Noir.”

Speaking on behalf of the Yarra Valley, Leanne De Bortoli, manager of De Bortoli Wines, commented: “2010 and 2011 were probably a bit fresher. In 2012 you had to tell the guys to be really careful when the fruit came in about not working it too much; it’s a bit denser this year.” In particular, she picked out 2012 as “a fantastic Cabernet year.

However, while acknowledging the significance of vintage variation, De Bortoli stressed the importance for people to “Find a producer you trust and follow them,” explaining:  “Vintages will vary but they won’t put out a bad one. In 2009 we didn’t put out our Yarra wine as there was so much taint from the fires.”

The Australian First Families of Wine are hosting an open pour tasting of their wines at the London International Wine Fair on Tuesday 22 May. The event takes place from 12.30-4pm in Room 8, South Gallery. Many producers will also be present throughout the fair on their agents’ stands.

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