Curious things happen in vineyards as the season unfolds and almost none more curious than in lead-up the 2014 vintage. The apparently ideal conditions of the winter leading into the 2014 vintage unexpectedly threw up a miserable quantity of grapes albeit of very good quality.
Tapanappa’s 3 terroirs, Tiers in the Piccadilly Valley, Foggy Hill on the Fleurieu Peninsula and Whalebone at Wrattonbully in the Southeast, all had well watered winters, filling the soil profile, then good follow on rains through spring and summer to replenish the drying root-zone through the growing season.
For the 12 months May 2013 to April 2014,
- Tiers, Piccadilly Valley – 1188.5mm’s versus average 1077.3mm’s (+10.3%)
- Foggy Hill, Fleurieu – 1077.5mm’s versus average 947.3mm’s (+13.7%)
- Whalebone, Wrattonbully – 706.4mm’s versus 583.9mm’s (+21%)
The vines in all three terroirs were in a condition of hydrological luxury until after veraison and ironically that contributed to the yield detriment.
The following table details the temperatures in all three terroirs leading up to bud burst in September and through flowering in November.
TEMPERATURE VARIANCE TO AVERAGE.
In all three terroirs the same pattern emerges,
- A warm wet winter, (about a degree warmer than average)
- A very warm beginning to spring (September 2 to 3 degrees above average which is exceptional)
- Rapid cooling down through October/ November.
The consequences of this temperature roller coaster were an early bud burst and rapid growth of the vine shoots through flowering.
Flowering then suffered two disadvantages, the competitive effect of the vine growth vigour and the prevailing cool conditions of November. This was a one two knock out combination of two vine physiological conditions well understood by the French.
The first called “coulure” is the result of the carbohydrate (energy) competition between growing shoots and the energy intensive flowering process resulting in the loss of whole bunches. The second is “millanderage” the failure of the fertilisation process during flowering induced by unfavourable low temperature, low light and wet conditions. The latter is often called “hen and chicken” because of the preponderance of seedless small berries among the few partially or fully seeded berries on a bunch.
The precocious varieties, Pinot Noir in particular but also Chardonnay suffered a very poor fruit set despite beginning with high flower numbers.
Many bunches just disappeared from the vine (coulure) and others were left with a few berries some of which had seeds and developed normally but many of which were seedless, tiny and susceptible to shrivelling (millanderage).
The later varieties, the Bordeaux suite (see “The Noble House Of Carmenere”) at Wrattonbully fared better although again Merlot being the most precocious yielded a small crop for the same reasons.
From this unanticipated inauspicious beginning we watched the tiny crops develop without putting any stress on the vines, which continued to luxuriate and grow vigorously well into the fruit ripening cycle.
Fortunately the rest of the season proved to be very moderate and the heat summations for all three terroirs ended up at about average.
HEAT SUMMATIONS (°C-days) FOR THE 2014 GROWING SEASON COMPARED TO AVERAGE AND 2013.
|Terroir||2014||10 year Average||2013|
2014 was a much cooler year than 2013 but because of the poor fruit set and very small crops, the fruit in all three terroirs ripened early and completely.
2014 was a very different vintage to the warm and very high quality 2013 vintage, the quality being the equal but the wines in 2014 achieve a small crop concentration and a cool vintage elegance and balance.
2014 Tiers Vineyard.
The Chardonnay from the Tiers Vineyard was harvested on the 3rd of April, which is normal timing. The crop level was just less than 5 tonnes/hectare compared to the long-term average of 7 tonnes/ hectare.
The pre-fermentation analysis of the 2014 Tiers Chardonnay juice was 23.0 Brix, pH 3.02 and Total Acid 7.45 gpl.
Currently in barrique undergoing malo-lactic fermentation, the 2014 Tiers Chardonnay is a small quantity (300 dozens) of very fresh, cool year Tiers Chardonnay showing typical white peach aromas, silky texture and quince finish.
2014 Foggy Hill.
The tiny Pinot Noir vines of the Foggy Hill Vineyard yielded 2.2 tonnes/hectare of exquisitely concentrated grapes. The normal yield of Foggy Hill is 5.5 tonnes/hectare.
The fruit was harvested on the 7th and 8th of March about one week earlier than normal because of the early budburst and small crop.
The analysis in fermenter was 24.5 Brix, pH 3.7 and total acid of 6.5gpl.
2014 Foggy Hill Pinot Noir has a very deep and bright colour. There is only a tiny quantity (250 dozens) of this concentrated wine, which has the typical spice and ripe black cherry qualities of this distinguished site.
2014 Whalebone Vineyard.
The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc of the Whalebone Vineyard yielded just 2.5 tonnes/hectare. The fruit was harvested between the 4th and the 15th of April, beginning with the Merlot, then the Cabernet Franc and finishing with the Cabernet Sauvignon which is average timing.
The average analysis of the wines from fermenter before malo-lactic fermentation was Alcohol 13.6%, pH 3.45, Total acid 6.7gpl.
The 2014 wines from Whalebone have the finesse and complexity of cooler-year wines but are completely ripe without any herbaceous elements. The tannins are fine but firm and they will be long-lived wines of small crop concentration.
Whalebone Vineyard is the warmest Tapanappa Vineyard and its diurnal range is the greatest.
COMPARISON OF 2014 TO 2013 AT WHALEBONE.
|Whalebone||Minimum °C||Maximum °C||Diurnal Range °C||Heat Summation °C days|
The warm climate and the moderately large diurnal range of the Whalebone Vineyard optimises the colour and quality of the Bordeaux varieties.
Whalebone is a distinguished site uniquely suited to the Bordeaux suite of varieties.
In 2014, the same as last year, the exceptionally cool days of the Foggy Hill vineyard maritime environment was evident. Compared to The Tiers at about the same heat summation, Foggy Hill was more than 2∞C cooler in the day than Tiers.
Conversely Tiers was 3∞C cooler at night than Foggy Hill.
The difference between day and night temperatures at Foggy Hill was a very low 7.9∞C across the growing season compared to the greater but still modest diurnal swing at The Tiers of 13.39∞C.
COMPARISON OF TIERS AND FOGGY HILL.
|Vineyard/Vintage||Average Max °C||Average Min °C||Diurnal Range °C||Heat Summation °C days|
|Foggy Hill 2014||19.85||11.93||7.91||1208.7|
|Foggy Hill 2013||20.5||11.9||8.67||1300.8|
The low day temperature of Foggy Hill protects the delicate Pinot fruit aromas and the warm night temperature optimises the production of flavour and tannin components.
The higher day temperature of the Tiers ensures fully ripe Chardonnay and the low night temperature protects the naturally high acid and low pH essential to this variety.
Each of these distinguished sites is uniquely suited to its variety again demonstrated by the small but exquisite 2014 vintage.