While writing the Tasting Notes for the wines featured in this week’s Cyber Circle offer (if you haven’t joined the Vinesse Cyber Circle, you’re missing out on some great deals), I was reminded of how difficult things have been for Aussie vintners in recent years.
After inundating the American marketplace with a number of mass-produced, value-priced wines during the 1990s, economic realities finally set in, forcing a number of marginal Down Under wineries out of business.
For a while, Australia had a reputation for producing “cheap wine,” even though the top estates continued to craft world-class bottlings. So it wasn’t just the “wine factories” that got hurt.
More recently, Mother Nature has been playing havoc with the Aussie wine industry. Drought conditions and a series of uncontrolled wildfires led to considerable vineyard acreage being destroyed.
The drought was in full swing during the 2008 harvest season, but growers and vintners caught a break that saved the vintage.
Winemaker Kevin O’Brien remembers it well.
“The 2008 vintage was challenging with the continuance of Australia’s worst drought in recent history,” O’Brien said.
“However, most vineyards benefited from cooler climatic conditions early in the season, and a good canopy structure that allowed them to survive the late spell of heat that took everyone by surprise toward the end of summer.”
In making his wines, O’Brien did what a lot of Aussie vintners did that year: He blended.
It was a great idea because by tapping fruit from a variety of regions, he could “construct” wines that were quite complex – good color plus blackberry and spice notes from the Southern Fleurieu and Currency Creek areas… depth and texture, plus dark plum and cherry notes from McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek.
Yes, even in a challenging vintage, it’s possible to make very good wines – but it definitely helps to have experience and creativity in your tool box.