2012 Vintage Summary

Author: Brian Croser
Source: Tapanappa
Review Date: May 2012

It’s been along time between posts.

The last post was “The Big Stretch”, the paper I wrote on Chile for a seminar on South American wines in London in January.

Since then the 2012 vintage has ripened beautifully, was carefully harvested and is in barriques slowly going through malo-lactic fermentation as winter approaches.

As soon as the Tapanappa crop was safely in the cellar in late April, I flew the wonderful new Qantas connection to Santiago (just 11hours) to see the later varieties and vineyards before the extremely dry and very warm Chilean harvest was completed. Chile experiences the weather inverse of Australia in the 5 to 7 year El Nino/La Nina cycles, which dominate our viticultural lives. The La Nina dominated cycle, which we have just entered, is cool and wet in Australia and hot and dry in Chile. This turn of the climate wheel follows the 2002 to 2009 drought (2003 to 2010 vintages), one of the longest and worst in recorded history, ranking with the “Federation Drought from 1895 to 1902 and the 1907 to 1914 drought.

There is a powerful correlation between an extended Solar Minimum and diminished solar energy reaching our atmosphere in all three of these extended droughts, which were dominated by El Nino.

For the 2012 vintage both El Nino and La Nina have adopted a neutral position following the La Nina powered very wet, cool and disastrous 2011 harvest.

The last three vintages exemplify the natural variation of weather which the shorter term climate cycles of El Nino and La Nina wreak upon us unsuspecting vignerons conditioned to drought and heat by the previous 8 vintages.

Tiers Vineyard, Piccadilly Valley

  Average 2010 2011 2012
Heat Summation.

  (°C days) 

1177 1360 1045 1178
Summer Rain.

  (% Average.)

131 mm’s 48% 165% 80%

Between the warm/hot and dry El Nino 2010 vintage and the cool wet La Nina vintage there is a 1.5°C difference averaged across every day and night of the 212 days of the growing season. Climate change, though real, is a minor temperature perturbation in the scheme of adjusting to the viticultural reality of these shorter-term climate cycles.

There was also more than 150mm’s of rain difference between 2010 and 2011 across the three summer months.

Thank goodness 2012 returned to a nearly normal pattern although it was an early vintage because of the warm November. We harvested the Tiers

on March the 15th, two weeks earlier than normal but the fruit was completely ripe with fresh vibrant flavours and high natural acidity.

Foggy Hill Vineyard, Fleurieu Peninsula

  Average 2010 2011 2012
Heat Summation.

(°C Days)

1135 1277 1001 1205
Summer Rain.

(% Average)

98 mms 80% 169% 111%

As for the Piccadilly Valley, The Fleurieu Peninsula experienced the dramatic swing from the very warm and El Nino end of the 9 year drought in 2010 to the very cold and wet 2011 La Nina vintage, a difference of 1.3°C for every day and night of the 212 days of the growing season and 91mm’s more of summer rain.

Tapanappa will not release a 2011 Foggy Hill Pinot Noir.

Happily the 2012 vintage returned to a slightly above average temperature summation mainly because of a very warm November, which precipitated an early vintage in average and moderate conditions. Foggy Hill was harvested on March the 2nd,, 2 to 3 weeks earlier than normal with wonderful flavours and colour at moderate alcohol.

Whalebone Vineyard, Wrattonbully

  Average 2010 2011 2012
Heat Summation. (°C Days) 1433 1608 1288 1596
Summer Rain. (%Average) 92 mms 75% 292% 53%

Whalebone Vineyard was so cool and wet in 2011 that we decided not to harvest, a very good decision in retrospect.

Again the difference between the 2010 and 2011 vintages was 1.5∞C and the difference in rainfall was an enormous 200 mms.

The 2012 vintage at Whalebone Vineyard was warm and dry producing fully ripe grapes harvested between the 20th and 24th of March.

2012 is an outstanding vintage from Whalebone Vineyard.

Consistent with the8 previous vintages Whalebone Vineyard’s 2012 heat summation of 1596∞C days is significantly less than the 1662∞C days recorded at Coonawarra


2012 vintage was slightly warmer than normal and summer rain was about average except at Wrattonbully, which was drier.

The quality of the 2012 vintage from Tapanappa’s three vineyard sites is wonderful and a welcome return to form after the disastrous 2011 vintage.

It is apparent that the extended solar minimum of the 2002 to 2009 El Nino dominated drought has been replaced with a phase of increasing solar activity building to a maximum over the next 2 or so years. This coincides with increased rainfall to the expected solar maximum in 2013 and then another extended decreasing solar activity phase to a minimum in 2021 followed shortly after by a maximum again in 2025.

The maximum sunspot activity in 2025 is expected to be the lowest in 300 years and low sunspot activity correlates with lower temperatures.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is just finishing its 25-year warmer cycle and is expected to create cooler wetter conditions for the next two decades, correlating with decreased El Nino events.

The past three vintages demonstrate the primacy of the shorter-term climate cycles in the working lives of Australia’s vignerons.


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