Big winter rains 890mm (instead of 566mm average) flushed the landscape and recharged the aquifers prior to budburst. This has been the wettest winter since 1989 according the S.E. drainage board, setting the vines up really well for summer. However, the spring budburst and phenological development was delayed with cold conditions carrying on into summer, with very cool night time temperatures slowing both sugar and tannin development. Vintage started on the 3rd of March with Chardonnay and we crushed our last Cabernet Sauvignon on the 3rd of May making this one of the longest vintages we can remember.
Whites came off early with good natural acidities and bright flavours, followed by a wait for reds to come up to baume. We picked vineyards as they came flavour ready and picked a lot of fruit in the 13.0s rather than 14.0s, and we saw tannin profiles similar to 2004.
In a cool year like 2017 our best vineyards on better soils and topography were able to ripen earlier and by Easter, were harvested in excellent condition. We were able to do long macerations on our best parcels, again this year. It was also an advantage to have the majority of our vineyard planted to Reynella selection, the earliest ripening of all Cabernet clones/selections.
The late ripening and a series of regular rains during summer, challenged our vineyard and winery teams and meant some, particularly shiraz vineyards, took up the water and had trouble ripening, with serious rain (the Break) coming the week after Easter and continuing. We decided not pick two of our four Shiraz blocks this year, but we picked all our other vineyards and had all Balnaves fruit in before the break.
The flavours and style of this year’s wines are strongly reminiscent of 2004, another late ripening year that produced wines that have aged superbly. At this stage we expect to make all our wines this year, including the Tally, but will assess our Shiraz that we did pick at our post vintage tasting.
Pete Bissell, May 2017.