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2014 Vintage: All’s Well that Ends Well

Regionality is the driving force behind Two Hands Wines. It gives rise to the Garden Series, an unprecedented portfolio of Australian Shiraz consisting of a handcrafted wine from each of six distinct regions. As the winery says, “One grape variety, one vintage, one winemaker – soils and climate are the only way of differentiation.” Making great wine from such disparate regions  the Barossa (Bella’s), McLaren Vale (Lily’s), Clare Valley (Samantha’s), Langhorne Creek (Harry & Edward’s), Padthaway (Sophie’s) and Heathcote (Max’s) – is a daunting but exhilarating task that gives the Two Hands team a unique perspective on wine growing in Australia each vintage. With that in mind, here Winemaker Ben Perkins offers the Two Hands perspective on the recently completed 2014 growing season – one that included more than its fair share of drama. Detailed region-by-region analyses will follow in the days ahead.

Who said growing grapes was easy? The growing season 2014 will be considered by many to be one of the most challenging in decades.ben perkins

The season began well in most of our regions, with good winter and early spring rainfalls. Budburst started on the last weekend in August (on par with recent vintages) and had come to most vineyards by the second week in September. Then the fun began.

The first of the major issues occurred during flowering when we experienced strong wind events that caused poor fruit set and severely reduced yields in many vineyards (some Cabernet vineyards were down by up to 50 percent). Once again, a lack of late spring and early summer rain required subsequent irrigation top-ups through late November and December.

Through the middle of the growing season we faced a range of issues that required careful management, from smaller than average shoot length/canopies in some Shiraz blocks to excessive growth and above average yields in Grenache.

Whilst remaining dry, the growing season was mostly mild up until early January, with only one warm weather event just before Christmas. This all changed during the week commencing January 13 – over the next month, we experienced 14 days above 40 C (104 F) while daytime temperatures rarely dipped below 30 C (86 F). Michael, Toby and I worked tirelessly with our growers to ensure sufficient irrigation was applied to all of our vineyards. Through careful management we were able to sustain canopy health and keep sunburn damage to a minimum. By February 13, with baumes – sugar levels – starting to accelerate and the canopies showing signs of stress, the heavens opened up.

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After a month of slow-moving high pressure systems, hot north winds and the prospect of another 2008 arriving at our doorsteps, Mother Nature decided to make February 14 the wettest in 40 years. For many growers, it had appeared like they had smashed a lifetime’s supply of mirrors, as they were now facing the likely prospect of heavy crop loss due to splitting.

Over the next week, however, it became clear the rain had been a huge blessing, reinvigorating the vines and pushing baumes back one to three degrees. From mid-February onward, we experienced six weeks of near-perfect ripening conditions, allowing for slow, even development which, in turn, allowed us to pick at optimal maturity.

Vintage started on time with Frontignac arriving just at the start of the wet weather. Unlike 2013, we had a little lull before Shiraz started flowing into the winery, on February 21. Shiraz dominated the fermenters for the next four weeks in a rather stress-free pattern with vineyards ripening in a lovely staggered pattern. We experienced another slight lull near the end of March, emptied the fermenters and recharged with Cabernet, Grenache and, finally, Mataro, with the later ripening Eden Valley Shiraz thrown in for good measure. Picking finally concluded on April 8 with our first ever parcel of Adelaide Hills Shiraz.

See these additional posts in the Vintage Report series:

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