Some warm spells during late September/beginning of October allowed growth rates to pick up setting up the vineyard for another sensational flowering season (weather permitting). The vines couldn’t be happier with regular top up rainfall, nutrient based foliar sprays and fertigation allowing excellent elongation towards the second half of spring. Earthworm numbers throughout the soil profile confirmed the health and vitality of the vineyard. Flowering and fruit-set commenced in earnest from early November in the Chardonnays followed by the rest of the whites and reds in mid- late November. Cool spells with the odd 30’C day protracted the flowering in the reds with a crop thinning program implemented to allow for perfect yield ratios and ripening levels across all blocks and varieties.
Fine, warm and sunny conditions prevailed during summer apart from an intense low pressure system typical of winter roared through mid-January. This topped up sub soil moisture and kept the vines in a blissful state and with typical summer conditions ending the season the grapes where on track for a historical harvest date. Little to no Marri blossom through February increased bird pressure so nets went on early to preserve the quality and integrity of the precious grapes.
Harvest amazingly began on the same day as 2018, “Valentine’s day,” although it was really only some of our earlier ripening blocks that got the ball rolling. Further Chardonnay harvests followed through the later stages of February until a white grape avalanche rolled through with the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon coming in hard and fast through early to mid-march trying to beat rainfall events. The weather was testing through April; cooler with some more rainfall events. Luckily the hard work in the vineyard done through January with leaf plucking and fruit thinning reducing disease pressure and allowing the red grapes to reach physiological ripeness. Red harvest commenced with Shiraz coming off bright and aromatic in early-mid April, followed by the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon batches through to late April showing great intensity. Driftwood’s last harvest was 25th April, a homage to ANZAC day and finally the celebrations could begin.
2017/2018 unveiled itself calmly, if not coolly. Spring budburst was followed smoothly by good shoot growth with warm spells accelerating elongation. Rainfall through spring was timely, encouraging good shoot development. Flowering was solid in early November, with only one windy event causing concern in chardonnay blocks with southerly aspects. Fruitfulness was looking good, but not excessive. The mild conditions continued through to summer with December rains filling out canopies further with little need for irrigation.
Were we in for another cool run, delayed vintage? Not really. Margaret River just kept delivering the middle ground, which meant the vines were under no stress – middle ground is good for plants. As with 2017 season Driftwood Estate implemented a bunch thinning program in red varieties. This and good canopy management were key to ensuring even physiological ripeness in late March/April. Veraison commenced early to mid-January, back on track from the previous season. Again timely rain mid-January kept all vines happy and vibrant with fabulous acid retention and flavours intensifying in the whites steadily.
It would not be 2018 vintage without mention of the Marri blossom – spectacularly full, the region looked like it had been dusted with icing and lasted well into March! The birds were drunk with nectar and chardonnay harvest began without fuss on Valentine’s Day. Sauvignon blanc and semillon followed over the next three weeks with the window for harvest being longer than normal due to excellent crunchy natural acid retention and bright flavours. A stella start!
The usual mid-March cold front came through, washed the dust off the reds and allowed us to start bringing in shiraz on 17th March. Flavour, colour and phenolics developed well in all reds and patience was rewarded with vibrancy, depth and concentration across all varieties. There was no other pressure than to do it right and do it justice.
March was wet and humid with a number of significant rain events causing some careful harvest decisions to be made around the sauvignon blanc and semillon picks. This was the year that kept on giving, however, with yields in both varieties up considerably, luckily flavours and intensity were great too. Can never have too much of a good thing, which is a nice segue into April. The weather was glorious; fine, warm and no rainfall to speak of. A classic way to finish off the reds, with the hard work in the vineyard done in early January, getting great balance into the vines and patience paying off as they ripened evenly through April. The reds were given the time to achieve full physiological maturity and tannin ripeness creating wines with great finesse and deep colour. Harvest of the reds commenced in earnest with Shiraz coming off first in early April, followed by the later reds in mid-late April. Driftwood’s last harvest was 26th April, almost a month later than usual.
In general yields were good and so was quality, marking 2017 as a year to watch for both whites and reds.
The whites built intensity of flavour and aromas supported by balanced crisp acidity with Block 20 chardonnay starting the harvest on 5th February and following eleven intense days the whites were all off and put to bed in the winery by 16th February. Flavours across all varieties were strong providing great choice when it came to making blending decisions.
There was a brief lull before the reds started knocking with Driftwood’s shiraz blocks coming in on 29th February. A slow and steady intake of reds followed, all with fantastic flavour, colour and fine powerful tannins. The final harvest was Driftwood’s newly grafted cabernet sauvignon in block 2 on 8th April, showing bucketloads of promise for the future.
This is a very exciting vintage for Driftwood Estate with plenty of potential.
There was plenty of summer storm and lightning activity throughout the south-west with Driftwood Estate receiving a refreshing 8mm of rain on 4 February. Due to Marri blossom being sporadic, drawn out and late considerable bird damage was experienced on all blocks that were not netted. Damage was throughout blocks and from a wide range of species, not just silvereyes. There was also considerable damage from kangaroos. In general, the wildlife was hungry. Exacerbating this problem, white varieties matured early and quickly resulting in good intensity and natural acid balance across chardonnay and sauvignon blanc while semillon required longer to build intensity resulting in lower acid levels at harvest.
Bird damaged fruit was identified, isolated and removed prior to harvesting all blocks. Rain in mid-March (47 mm) tempered the red harvest, giving them time to catch up with physiological ripening. It did signify the turning of the season with autumnal weather continuing and nights cooling considerably. Close monitoring of botrytis and strategic preventative measures ensured high-quality fruit harvested across the entire season. While a more challenging year due to bird pressure and late rains the quality of fruit from the 2015 Margaret River vintage was very good resulting in wines that show intense varietal fruit expression, balanced acid and in reds intense colour with fine tannin structure.
White harvest commenced 4 February and ended 27 February.
Red harvest commenced 13 March and ended 4 April.