“The 2019 vintage has been one of the most challenging I have experienced, however we are harvesting some high quality fruit. With good vineyard management setting it up, we have been able to manage most weather conditions and this year came out pretty well unscathed,” said Castle Rock Estate winegrower Rob Diletti.
Apart from some well-timed rain during late winter it was a very dry 12 months, although not excessively hot. Last year’s rain was enough to provide an adequate supply of irrigation water. These factors combined to ensure budburst was not too early.
Spring growing conditions were excellent, with vine development about two to three weeks later than last year. “There was some rough, wet weather during flowering and that, combined with the general dry conditions, meant the fruit set was not great and we ended up with much lower yields.”
With the New Year the dry conditions set in and the vineyard was watered regularly to keep the vines healthy, ensuring some leaf protection of the fruit from the sun. There were some vineyards in the area, that couldn’t provide enough water and the vines began to suffer.
On the 7th March we had 30mm of rain over three days, which saturated the ground and the vines took in a lot of water. There was some splitting of fruit in the region’s vineyards where the vines were stressed and subsequently botrytis pressure mounted.
“We had a week and a half of fine weather in which we harvested the Pinot Noir and a third of of our Riesling. We also picked most of our contract white varieties.”
On the 20th March we had 71mm of rain in three hours. Much of the water ran off but, after the previous rain event, left the remaining whites in a precarious situation. The next morning was fine, allowing the harvest of the remaining Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc; the resulting juice was exceptional.
“It then rained and drizzled for the next two days, so I was really pleased we jumped when we did. It is sunny now, so we’re confident that the quality of the remaining reds will be high.”
Castle Rock Estate’s harvesting of high quality fruit can be put down to judicious management, but the low yields also helped, ensuring the fruit was not over-crowded.
On top of the low yields there was very little Marri blossom (which the birds prefer to grapes) adding more bird pressure than we have had for several years. Anything that was not netted suffered some losses.
“Despite the dry growing conditions, wet harvest, birds and low yields, I believe we have some excellent quality fruit in to the winery, albeit around 40 per cent lower in quantity than average. The Pinot Noir is outstanding and the Riesling will be on a par with the previous few superior vintages.”