Australia and New Zealand wine makers are happy people with the weather largely staying good during the 2015 growing season and harvest. There were a few challenges as ever, including bush fires in Australia's Adelaide Hills, a key area for cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir production.
2015 New Zealand grape growing season
Grape growers and winemakers across New Zealand were pleased with the quality and flavours. There was a very good summer which provided excellent conditions for ripening grapes across the country so quality of the harvest was strong.
However yields were down with the vintage size of 326,000 tonnes - down 27% on the record 2014 vintage. Despite the excellent summer, the cool spring weather and the driest weather since the 1930's contributed to the marked reduction in the New Zealand grape crop. Picking of grapes generally started earlier and finished earlier than most years with Pinot Noir picking largely finished by April. For major players like Cloudy Bay, it was one of their earliest ever.
In Marlborough, dry weather, spring frosts and cool temperatures during flowering meant that Sauvignon Blanc production was well down versus 2014. The region received the lowest amount of rainfall over a seven-month period since records began which meant smaller fully ripe berries with the potential for concentrated flavours which bodes well for most of the region's wines when they are released.
Hawke's Bay had a good year too in 2015 following the excellent previous vintages but with a longer harvest than usual.
In Central Otago, a warm start to the season came abruptly to an end with a very cold November with some snow on mountains. but then was followed by a warmer period over the next 3 months. Conditions as ever were challenging for winemakers with rain in February causing the potential for some rot and despite the rain some vines were showing signs of lack of water later in the season.The harvest was completed in around mid April and took two weeks less than the usual six weeks. Unlike Marlborough, yields were down in Central Otago but not as much. Overall the 2015 Pinot Noir from the region is expected to be excellent as the grapes were ripe with early signs that the wines were exhibiting good aromatics.
2015 Australia grape growing season
The Australian 2015 vintage is looking very good with the main producing areas having a very good or excellent years but with grape yields mostly down in common with New Zealand.
The Barossa and Yarra Valley had good quality grape crops but rain storms in the Hunter Valley with some hail meant that 2015 was challenging. particularly during the harvest.
Margaret River had an excellent year but some storms during the spring time reduced yields whilst Clare Valley had an unpredictable harvest with a very early ripening of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in particular but like the West of Australia, yields were lower than usual in South Australia generally. Red and white grapes were being harvested at the same time in South Australia which is very unusual as a result of a warm spring. The Adelaide Hills was hit by some bush fires which damaged some crops and tainted some grapes.
Important Austalian Pinot Noir producing areas like the Mornington Peninsula were reported as producing excellent grapes given no heat stress and cooler year generally with a slower, longer ripening period.