By Neil Pike
When it’s all said and done, we vignerons are basically grape farmers, so I guess it is no surprise that we are always banging on about the weather. Typical bloody farmers.
However in our game, the weather does control pretty much everything we do and is directly correlated to the success (or lack of it) of any particular vintage.
Premium grapes don’t like it too hot and they don’t like it too wet. In fact they want everything their way – warm days, cool nights and a little bit of rain every now and then. That’s not too much to ask is it?
It seems the days of us spending January on holidays at the coast and then leisurely rolling into harvest around the end of February and continuing into March and April have disappeared for the time being. This year we have had a very dry, and at times, bloody hot growing season which has resulted in us cranking up the winery to full speed in early February again.
It’s not all bad though. Thankfully this year we haven’t experienced any extended periods of heat since mid-December with January and February actually being quite mild. A quick glance at the local weather data will tell you that both the maximum and minimum temperatures during January and February for Clare have been below average – a very good thing.
We also received 30mm of much needed rain on January 29, which did a lot more good than harm. Some vineyards in the region were looking decidedly tired after the prolonged dry conditions of the 2015 spring and early summer. It came at exactly the right time to give the vines a much-needed drink and freshen up.
That 30mm of rain followed by the cooler temperatures has quite possibly turned a potentially quite ordinary vintage into something potentially quite special.
Heading into mid-February and early-March the rain disappeared, the cool nights and crisp mornings kicked in, slowing things down in the vineyard and sending a message to us that the cooler autumn months are just around the corner.
These are conditions that are pretty much ideal for achieving concentrated flavours and the sugar levels we require. Good weather for grapes.
It will possibly come as no surprise to many that the backbone varieties of Clare such as Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet are showing early promise. Riesling in particular has great flavour, low pH and good levels of natural acidity.
While perhaps still too early to start proclaiming it as another “vintage of the century” we are really confident we will produce some terrific wines from 2016 – whatever the weather.
Decanter Magazine Top 50 of 2015
Our 2014 “The Merle” Riesling has made highly respected UK-based Decanter Magazine’s Top 50 wines of 2015, coming in at number 5. Our Adelaide Hills brand also featured strongly coming in at number 9 with the 2012 Pike & Joyce Pinot Noir – the only new world Pinot in Decanter’s Top 50. An outstanding result considering that their panels taste thousands of wines from all around the globe each year. We were happy to have one wine in the Top 50, but to have two wines in the Top 10 is a large feather in our collective hats. See the Dec/Jan issue of Decanter for all of the results.
“Traditionale” Riesling rolls on and on
I think I must have been bored driving along the highway between Adelaide and Clare one day recently. I found myself doing some mental arithmetic on the sales of “Traditionale” Riesling while bumbling along at the 100km/h speed limit. I ultimately came to the conclusion that at the current rate of sales, somewhere in the world there is a bottle sold (and most probably consumed) every 1.46 minutes. Whoa – that’s quite a bit of Rizza!!
The Polish Connection
Even after 20 + years of exporting our wine to various parts of the globe, it never ceases to amaze us where our wines end up. New Zealander John Borrell, a former foreign correspondent who was tired of travelling and writing about war, decided to establish a small hotel on the edge of a beautiful lake near Gdansk. He found the choice of New World wine in Poland was really quite miserable and so decided to import wines for himself and his hotel. These days he still has the hotel (Kania Lodge), his importing business, a retail wine shop, an online wine business, a terrific new restaurant in Warsaw (Kalaya) and an interest in an upmarket/artisan Vodka brand. We have been shipping wine to John since 2009 and currently export over 500 cases of wine per year as well as some Pikes beer to Poland through his Wine Express importing company. Our wines are available through John’s various outlets.