Harvest in the Yarra Valley – a great time to visit
Harvest in the Yarra Valley is a time of great activity. Winemakers are busy, busy, busy getting stuck into the work of making grapes into 2016 vintage wine and there are lots of extra things to see and do for visitors.
Earlier ripening varieties are now reaching optimum levels of flavour development and picking has commenced. This includes the Yarra region’s premium varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from warmer vineyards at lower altitudes. These same varieties grown on higher altitude, cooler vineyards will follow in the next two to four weeks or so.
How has the growing season been to date?
So far so good. The new reality is that everything in the Yarra happens a bit earlier than it used to. Dave Bicknell, from Oakridge Wines, estimates that they are picking about half a week earlier than last year, which was itself an early harvest.
Spring, once again, was warm and dry. October was especially so, with new records being set. A few very warm days in late December and early January moved things along quite quickly, with colour change in the Pinot starting in the second week of January.
Since then, the weather has moderated, providing gentle ripening conditions ideal for high quality wine. Vineyard managers are delighted by weather conditions. Vineyard manager Stuart Proud from Thousand Candles highlighted the above average rainfall in January as a key factor, keeping vines refreshed and healthy. There has also been plenty of sunshine, balanced with cooler nights, fueling optimism for very high quality results.
The buzz of harvest is likely to continue for another 6 weeks, as later ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz follow on from the earlier ripening signature varieties.
An effort to visit during harvest is well rewarded. Lots of cellar doors have sample juices and ferments to see and smell. Some producers have events and activities that allow visitors to engage with the wine making process. Outside of working hours, the region is alive with vintage workers from all over the planet filling the pubs, bars and cafes of the region… and keen for a chat. It’s a time where you just don’t know what you are going to be able to see, smell and taste, or who you are going to meet.