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Summer in Clare Valley

When I penned some notes in July, the dams were still empty and everything looked reasonably dry for the first month of winter. How quickly a few months can change the season! From the beginning of June through to the end of September we received a whopping 500mm of rain, with more than 150mm falling in 48 hours at the end of September. Along with some extremely wild and windy weather. It was a ‘one in a 50-year storm’ according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Everything was close to breaking point. Many dams around the district came perilously close to overflowing which would have created a very dangerous scenario. Fortunately, the intensity of rain eased at the critical time and we came through relatively unscathed, apart from quite a bit of erosion, a lot of damage to roads and creek crossings and plenty of cleaning up.

Following this deluge, spring has been a ‘text book’ affair with no frost or hail damage to speak of in the Clare Valley. The vines have started flowering in earnest this week and conditions thus far and into the foreseeable future look favourable for fruit set. Early cluster counts look solid to above average, so assuming the current weather patterns hold we can expect an above average crop in 2017.

In the vineyard, we have been busy finishing pruning and getting our spring spray programs under way. The cool and damp finish to winter certainly held things back in terms of early vine growth and bud burst and subsequently the season is probably running three weeks later than in the last few seasons. This will almost certainly translate into a later start to vintage in 2017 which will not be a bad thing after a run of very early vintage starts. We are also doing a little more planting and grafting this year to ‘tweak’ our variety mix to best suit the current and forecast wine market requirements. So a little more Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Shiraz and Tempranillo will be added to our planting register this spring.

There is never a dull moment in the vineyard in the spring and this year is certainly no exception with spraying, slashing, shoot thinning, wire lifting, vine training, trellising, crop estimates, planting and grafting all needing to be completed ‘yesterday’ and we are pushing hard to get everything done before the Christmas break. Another vintage looms large and hopefully 2017 will be another in the long run of above average and successful vintages in the Clare Valley.

Andrew Pike, Viticulturist
November 2016