After a very wet start to the season (nearly 300mm of rain by mid November), December was mostly dry and hot with the maximum reaching 41.8 degrees Celsius. The warm weather and moisture contributed to very healthy canopies and increased yields in some vineyards. The abundance of moisture resulted in bunches with higher than average weights. This increase was seen around the time of veraison (physiological period when grapes soften, accumulate sugar, lose acid and red varieties change colour) so fruit thinning was completed early enough to allow the remainder of the fruit to ripen evenly.
January, February and March were very dry and warm to hot. January was especially hot with several days in a row over 40 degrees. While some rain fell in late March, most of the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon had already been picked, and the Grenache had already ripened prior to the weather change. The resultant wines express characters of rich red fruits and spice on the nose.
After a very wet winter and early spring, October alternated between dry and wet weeks with temperatures in the mid to high teens, and with steady winds throughout the month. As daytime temperatures slowly increased to the high 30s / low 40s, the period of November through February also brought limited rainfall.
During the early months, the high level of soil moisture combined with the mild weather resulted in good healthy canopy development. By the end of February, the hot days had subsided to more mild conditions which were excellent for ripening. At the time of harvest, the bunches were loose with small berries (good skin to juice ratio) that were disease free and intense with flavour.
Winter 2005 was wet enough that the decision was made not to flood irrigate the Shiraz block from the Bremer River. This was a wise choice as September, October and the first half of November were still wet with some intermittent clear mild days, and subsequently, canopy growth and development was very good.
However, December could not have been further from a typical summer month, with fifteen days of light but steady rain. Meanwhile, daytime temperatures slowly climbed to the low 40s. January, February and march brought some fantastic weather - several weeks of mild to hot days with negligible rain. Sugar and flavour accumulated evenly until optimal ripeness was determined and the fruit was picked in pristine condition on the 28th March.
The beginning of the growing season through spring had mild days and cool nights, with the odd frost during September. Rainfall was generally patchy, except for a damp second half of October. Overall these conditions resulted in excellent canopy development and health. The first week in December was wet, but the temperature climbed slowly to the low 30s by the new year.
January was generally a very warm month with several days well into the 40s. Overall the season was windy, which helped to keep disease incidence to a minimum. The warmer weather in the latter half of December and for most of January was excellent for sugar and led to great phenolic development. The dry warm weather of February and early March finished off the fruit's ripening perfectly with the fruit being picked on the 11th March in excellent condition with great flavour and balance.
Although the weather broke late in the season after vintage 2005, there was plenty of precipitation throughout the second half of winter and early spring, including 80mm in September. From October through to December, an interesting phenomenon was seen. The weather was very cyclical, with alternating weeks of dry and wet weather.
Apart from a few frosts, the three months before Christmas were very windy, resulting in disease free vineyards, despite the damp, mild conditions. January, February and March saw some wonderful dry, warm to hot daytime weather with light winds, coupled with cooler nights.
By the end of January, there were several days in the high 30s and 40s. February tapered slightly to the high 20s, but March saw a slight kick in the heat again, with temperatures once again in the high 30s. These excellent conditions dictated even fruit ripening, while retaining moderate natural acidity all the way up to the date of harvest, the 29th March, giving fruit with complex red/black fruit and spice.
McLaren Vale had a wet winter and early spring. Although the threat of disease was high, thankfully our growers got through unscathed. The wind picked up considerably through November, which aided the growers immensely by accelerating the canopy drying process after rain.
Finally, late December saw the end of the solid wet weather. January was clear and fine with temperatures nudging the old century mark. By the beginning of April, the weather had started to close in for Autumn and with the rain came the cold days. The fine warm days suited the early blocks, with most of the fruit being picked in March. The majority of the fruit was in perfect condition, full of flavour and structure and some great wines should be seen out of McLaren Vale in 2006.
Matt Wenk - Winemaker