The Six Seasons of Margaret River
By Cathy Howard • 26.02.2023
By Cathy Howard • 25.04.2020
Vintage is the period of time starting when we harvest our first grapes (which for us is Chardonnay). It is when we are in a continual weekly cycle of crushing grapes, managing ferments, pressing red ferments, clean everything, then start again – harvesting, fermentation, pressing, repeat.
We work very long hours from early morning right into the night, 7 days a week.
Vintage starts in late January/early February and continues through until late April/early May.
To state that 2020 has started off not being a great year, is really an understatement, all things considered. From bushfire crises, to the very sad passing of my sister Tess, through the rapid rise of the Covid 19 pandemic and it’s fast evolving restrictions and lockdowns, and now the spectre of a looming recession/depression post Covid, it really is going to be year that will not be remembered fondly.
Amidst all of this though, we harvested grapes and made wine. In a world that has changed dramatically the past couple of months, and a lifestyle that is being referred to now as the ‘new normal’, vintage basically happened as it normally does.
The weather though has been a bit unexpected, and even with taking climate change into account, this year threw up some weird combinations of weather conditions! It started off with the consistently warm to hot weather from November onwards which is fairly typical, and it was looking like our harvests may start early.
Then the weather did an about face, some days were warm to hot and steamy like being in the tropics, other days temperatures were milder but still with a higher humidity then usual. The rain and showers continued off and on for most of March and April.
Disease pressure due to powdery mildew and botrytis increased as these weather conditions are ideal for these types of diseases to potentially take off.
We harvested our whites early, but the red varieties started to drag their feet a little especially those growing further south in Cowaramup. Luckily, the outbreaks of botrytis and powdery mildew were isolated and sporadic in our vineyards, affecting only a minuscule amount of bunches.
So overall, the quality of all our varieties was very good, and 2020 will most likely be rated as one of our best vintages.
We had a first this year, harvesting about 0.5 Tonnes of Mataro (AKA Mourvedre) from the vines that Neil planted in our vineyard at Whicher Ridge 3 years ago. Before you get too excited about a potential new wine, we only have 425L currently of the Mataro in barrel, so it probably won’t make it into the bottle as a stand alone wine, yet, sorry!!
Right now, the 2020 wines are all tucked away in tanks and barrels. If they are white wines, they have started their maturation period on yeast lees. If they are red wines, they are slowly going through their malo-lactic fermentation which usually takes 3 to 4 weeks.
The vines are slowly changing into their autumn colours getting ready for their Winter dormancy.
Neil is catching up on his long ‘to do list’ around the farm. I still have a lot of winemaking work to do, but will be out in the gardens shortly knocking them back into shape which I am looking forward to. Polly is a little depressed as she doesn’t have Cellar Door visitors dropping in now, but she keeps herself busy though, chasing roos, hunting rabbits and sleeping.
Stay positive, keep safe and wash your hands well with soap!!
Whicher Ridge acknowledges the people of the Noongar Land and recognises their connection to culture, community and Country. We pay our respects to their elders, past and present. Whicher Ridge supports the Uluru Statement.