This is a year to have small low close spaced Cabernet Sauvignon vines. We left at 5am on Monday still mildly affected by receding wedding hangover and arrived at a drizzly Whalebone Vineyard at 8.30 after the obligatory “steak, onion and tomato” pie at the Naracoorte bakery. Our worst fears went unspoken as we entered the vineyard having been preoccupied with Foggy Hill and Tiers (and wedding) over the past week. Had the Cabernet Sauvignon succumbed to the epidemic Botrytis plague that had already claimed our Merlot and Shiraz despite all of practical science’s contribution to prevention?
The mat ebony Cabernet Sauvignon bunches are hanging in the breeze just 400mm’s from the ground largely clear of the foliage arranged in a 1 metre solar panel above. Each row is only 1.5 metres from its neighbour, allowing the shoots in the row to be spaced apart at 10cms. This is a very un-Australian vineyard format.
The Cabernet Sauvignon fruit is in near perfect condition, just a few avoidable botrytised berries here and there. Most importantly it is ripe, 24 Brix sugar, and malic acid down to 1.2 gpl and it tastes deliciously fruity without a hint of the green and harsh pyrazine flavours which is the bane of cool wet vintages.
The ground warmth at night and the exposure of the heat absorbing black fruit to the occasional ray of sunshine has ripened this low hanging fruit at the last gasp of autumn warmth in a way that traditional Australian high trellissed, wide spaced Cabernet Sauvignon cannot achieve.
We pick on Thursday with the same meticulous attention at the bin to rejecting blemished fruit as already employed at Foggy Hill and Tiers.
Now off to Foggy Hill to pick the two tonnes of late pick Pinot, 1 week after the main harvest, that is if the birds have not already had it for desert..