View Full Version : Mother Nature vs the Winemaker

Mick Pacholli
13th July 2013, 03:11 PM
We're patiently, and in some cases nervously, waiting for our grapes to ripen for the 2013 harvest, and as we wait we keep a keen eye on the weather, which can make or break a vintage. Winemakers and grapegrowers are ardent followers of the weather forecast and can habitually be found scanning rain radars, checking every possible website or app just in case there may have been an update to help build our information base and fine tune decision-making. Some have even been known to boast insider*knowledge*through weather bureau contacts, and report said knowledge as if it were the word of the gods themselves. The words "50 mm of rain next Wednesday" have been known to send winemakers into a spin worthy of a Whirling Dervish, reorganising, replanning, rescheduling. So why is the weather so important and how does it affect the quality of a vintage?
http://www.tooraktimes.com.au/~/media/Wolf Blass/Images/From Our Winery Blog/Lightning.ashxHow does the Weather affect the Vintage?For making wine, we only harvest grapes once a year. And once they're harvested they don't continue to ripen, meaning that the timing of the harvest is critical to the winemaking process. Grapes must be perfectly ripe, but not overripe, with the correct balance of sugars, acid, tannins and flavours. And only a very short window of opportunity exists each year to pick the fruit at while it’s at its peak.Adverse weather can play havoc with ripening and ultimate wine quality. From late frosts, which can destroy fragile buds as they emerge from dormancy; to hailstorms; to droughts; to late summer and autumn rains which can cause diluted flavours or in worst case scenarios, diseased fruit; we are at the mercy of Mother Nature until we can breathe a sigh of relief when everything's picked and we can close the winery doors for the year.*
So we pray for the stars to align climatically and provide us with mild conditions that are optimal to making great*wine.*The warmer the weather, the more rapidly grapes will ripen. Cooler years, therefore, providing they stay dry, will generally give more concentrated flavours as the grapes can spend more time slowy ripening on the vine and absorbing all its riches. Each day the grapes stay in contact with the vine, they draw more lifeblood from the soil and create a more vital and complex wine. A long cool stint in the sun will give more intense colour and integrity to the skins, whereas too much sun in hot weather can cause sunburn and overheating.The vintage, and all its quirks, become part of a wine’s personality. No two vintages are identical. Good, bad or somewhere in between, the huge variation in climatic conditions from year to year will always guarantee that every vintage is different to the next.Mother Nature vs the WinemakerAs an industry, our understanding and skill in viticulture and winemaking has significantly improved over recent decades, meaning we are not quite so much at the mercy of the elements as we perhaps once were. Which is not to say that they don’t still play a major role. But good wines can still be made in lesser vintages through judicious fruit selection and meticulous winemaking. As a result, vintage variation these days is as much about style as it once was about quality. A warmer vintage will provide wines which are generally richer and riper in flavour whereas cooler years will tend to offer lighter, more elegant and structural styles.So how important is vintage? Well, the very best years will always make the very best wines, and most often these are the wines that are made in the vineyard. But even in the years that Mother Nature has thrown down the gauntlet to challenge winemakers with all she can muster, a good winemaker will rise to that challenge to create a wine that, while unique in its style, will always be a delicious drink.

More... (http://www.wolfblasswines.com/en/From-Our-Winery/Our-Winemakers-Blog/2013/01/31/Mother-Nature-vs-the-Winemaker.aspx)