Vintage Reports

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Vintage 2019

The 2018/2019 growing season started in mid-August for the Chardonnay blocks and a little later for most other varietals with budburst being restricted in intensity of growth due to a lingering wet and cool winter. The Cabernet took a little bit more time to get out of bed until the familiar warmth of spring began to appear. On historical averages though the cooler trend was apparent with some mild frost events causing some concern, especially in the Chardonnays. Luckily due to Driftwoods proximity to the Indian Ocean and its regulatory influence on temperatures there was no damage to the young shoots.

Some warm spells during late September/beginning of October allowed growth rates to pick up setting up the vineyard for another sensational flowering season (weather permitting). The vines couldn’t be happier with regular top up rainfall, nutrient based foliar sprays and fertigation allowing excellent elongation towards the second half of spring. Earthworm numbers throughout the soil profile confirmed the health and vitality of the vineyard. Flowering and fruit-set commenced in earnest from early November in the Chardonnays followed by the rest of the whites and reds in mid- late November. Cool spells with the odd 30’C day protracted the flowering in the reds with a crop thinning program implemented to allow for perfect yield ratios and ripening levels across all blocks and varieties.

Fine, warm and sunny conditions prevailed during summer apart from an intense low pressure system typical of winter roared through mid-January. This topped up sub soil moisture and kept the vines in a blissful state and with typical summer conditions ending the season the grapes where on track for a historical harvest date. Little to no Marri blossom through February increased bird pressure so nets went on early to preserve the quality and integrity of the precious grapes.

Harvest amazingly began on the same day as 2018, “Valentine’s day,” although it was really only some of our earlier ripening blocks that got the ball rolling. Further Chardonnay harvests followed through the later stages of February until a white grape avalanche rolled through with the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon coming in hard and fast through early to mid-march trying to beat rainfall events. The weather was testing through April; cooler with some more rainfall events. Luckily the hard work in the vineyard done through January with leaf plucking and fruit thinning reducing disease pressure and allowing the red grapes to reach physiological ripeness. Red harvest commenced with Shiraz coming off bright and aromatic in early-mid April, followed by the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon batches through to late April showing great intensity. Driftwood’s last harvest was 25th April, a homage to ANZAC day and finally the celebrations could begin.

Vintage 2018

If you could map out a dream run this season would be it! 2017/2018 unveiled itself calmly, if not coolly. Spring budburst was followed smoothly by good shoot growth with warm spells accelerating elongation. Rainfall through spring was timely. Flowering was solid in early November, with only one windy event causing concern in chardonnay blocks with southerly aspects. Fruitfulness was good, but not excessive. Mild conditions continued through to summer with December rains filling out canopies further with little need for irrigation. Margaret River just kept delivering the middle ground, which meant the vines were under no stress – middle ground is good for plants. Driftwood Estate implemented a bunch thinning program in red varieties. This and good canopy management were key to ensuring even physiological ripeness in late March/April. Veraison commenced early to mid-January. Again timely rain mid-January kept all vines happy and vibrant with fabulous acid retention and flavours intensifying in the whites steadily

It would not be 2018 vintage without mention of the Marri blossom – spectacularly full, the region looked like it had been dusted with icing that lasted well into March! The birds were drunk with nectar and chardonnay harvest began without fuss on Valentine’s Day. Sauvignon blanc and semillon followed over the next three weeks with a longer window than normal due to excellent crunchy natural acid retention and bright flavours. A stellar start! The usual mid-March cold front came through, washed the dust off the reds. Shiraz harvest began on 17th March. Flavour, colour and phenolics developed well in all reds and patience was rewarded with vibrancy, depth and concentration across all varieties. There was no other pressure than to do it right and do it justice. Driftwood’s final harvest was 17th April, another ripper from Margaret River!

Vintage 2017

The 2016/2017 growing season started late with budburst commencing approximately 3 weeks later than normal due to a wet and cooler winter. Spring continued with generally cool, mild weather ensuring a good even start, however, the timing of very strong winds in late September/beginning of October wreaked havoc on tender chardonnay shoots, causing some significant damage in the newly grafted and younger vine blocks with southerly aspects. This hiccup was a minor setback though and flowering and fruit-set commenced in earnest from mid-November with spectacular results leading to some very thoughtful decisions about early crop thinning, particularly in the reds. Fine, mild conditions prevailed during summer, which ended up being one of the coolest growing seasons in recent years; both the veraison in whites and reds were at least three weeks later than normal, chardonnay started mid-January, while reds commenced late January. An abundant Marri blossom through February ensured that bird pressure was low, however humid conditions created other challenges that kept us on our toes in the vineyard. Harvest eventually commenced on 28th February with chardonnay coming in beautifully over the following week, the latest start for a very long time!

March was wet and humid with a number of significant rain events causing some careful harvest decisions to be made around the sauvignon blanc and semillon picks. This was the year that kept on giving, however, with yields in both varieties up considerably, luckily flavours and intensity were great too. Can never have too much of a good thing, which is a nice segue into April. The weather was glorious; fine, warm and no rainfall to speak of. A classic way to finish off the reds, with the hard work in the vineyard done in early January, getting great balance into the vines and patience paying off as they ripened evenly through April. The reds were given the time to achieve full physiological maturity and tannin ripeness creating wines with great finesse and deep colour. Harvest of the reds commenced in earnest with Shiraz coming off first in early April, followed by the later reds in mid-late April. Driftwood’s last harvest was 26th April, almost a month later than usual.

In general yields were good and so was quality, marking 2017 as a year to watch for both whites and reds.

Vintage 2016

Margaret River just keeps on giving. The vintage this year was another great season that started early, continued warm, provided some nervous moments (hail in November last year and 64 mm of rain in late January) but finished solidly. The rain in January was in the end a blessing as it stopped the accelerated ripening of both the whites and reds and provided some much needed ground water to see the grapevines through. Excellent canopy management in the vineyard, careful disease monitoring and netting to protect against bird damage allowed all grapes to mature steadily.

The whites built intensity of flavour and aromas supported by balanced crisp acidity with Block 20 chardonnay starting the harvest on 5th February and following eleven intense days the whites were all off and put to bed in the winery by 16th February. Flavours across all varieties were strong providing great choice when it came to making blending decisions.

There was a brief lull before the reds started knocking with Driftwood’s shiraz blocks coming in on 29th February. A slow and steady intake of reds followed, all with fantastic flavour, colour and fine powerful tannins. The final harvest was Driftwood’s newly grafted cabernet sauvignon in block 2 on 8th April, showing bucketloads of promise for the future.

This is a very exciting vintage for Driftwood Estate with plenty of potential.

Vintage 2015

The generally mild conditions through winter and spring, particularly night time temperatures, resulted in early budburst followed by a protracted flowering, giving an uneven crop maturity and lighter bunches due to smaller berry sizes. The mild conditions with normal winter/spring rainfall patterns kept vineyards actively growing and ahead of schedule throughout the season. Berry maturity evened up as a steady warm summer unfolded through December, peaking with warm to hot days (35-39°C) and warm evenings the second half of January and early February.

There was plenty of summer storm and lightning activity throughout the south-west with Driftwood Estate receiving a refreshing 8mm of rain on 4 February. Due to Marri blossom being sporadic, drawn out and late considerable bird damage was experienced on all blocks that were not netted. Damage was throughout blocks and from a wide range of species, not just silvereyes. There was also considerable damage from kangaroos. In general, the wildlife was hungry. Exacerbating this problem, white varieties matured early and quickly resulting in good intensity and natural acid balance across chardonnay and sauvignon blanc while semillon required longer to build intensity resulting in lower acid levels at harvest.

Bird damaged fruit was identified, isolated and removed prior to harvesting all blocks. Rain in mid-March (47 mm) tempered the red harvest, giving them time to catch up with physiological ripening. It did signify the turning of the season with autumnal weather continuing and nights cooling considerably. Close monitoring of botrytis and strategic preventative measures ensured high-quality fruit harvested across the entire season. While a more challenging year due to bird pressure and late rains the quality of fruit from the 2015 Margaret River vintage was very good resulting in wines that show intense varietal fruit expression, balanced acid and in reds intense colour with fine tannin structure.

White harvest commenced 4 February and ended 27 February.

Red harvest commenced 13 March and ended 4 April.

Vintage 2014

The 2013-2014 growing season was exceptional! A challenging winter with wet conditions and late storms in spring raised some concerns at flowering and fruit set with regard to yields; however it ensured deep ground water supplies were replenished setting the vines up for a long Indian summer. The ripening period proved to be steady and reliable, with warm sunny days followed by moderate night time temperatures. Irrigation was used judiciously late February and early March on vines, which carried balanced yields, guaranteeing even ripening. White varieties showed vibrant varietal characteristics and excellent natural. Apart from the odd Shiraz batch leaping out of the blocks early March, the remaining reds kept their cool following quenching showers late March, developing intense colour, ripe phenolics and terrific flavours. All in all a great season!

Vintage 2013

A mild and dry winter passed into a pleasant spring rudely interrupted by nasty storms involving gales and hail. These interfered substantially with flowering and fruit set, leading to low yields but terrific quality. A long hot spell through early summer brought on an early start to the harvest, but moderating conditions then extended the maturation of later varieties, with some late reds harvested in the second week of April with rich flavours yet still moderate sugar (and consequent alcohol) levels.

Vintage 2012

A relatively dry winter followed by mild and calm spring conditions set the scene for good fruit-set and heavy crop of healthy, well flavoured berries. Disease pressures were generally low. An extended heat wave early in the New Year accelerated ripening put some pressure on the more delicate whites and led to an early start to the harvest. The later part of the ripening period, extending well into autumn, saw a welcome return to moderate weather conditions ideal for steady accumulation of flavours and sugar, and maintenance of well-balanced attractive fruit.