Whether Weather or Climate Change is More Important?

Author: Brian Croser
Source: Tapanappa
Review Date: Oct 2011

Here we are again in Oregon where vintage used to be in September.

Today is the 13th of October, a cool foggy damp day in downtown Dayton and at least two weeks from harvest.

Dayton is a small town at the junction of the Yamhill and the Willamette Rivers, which in turn flow into the mighty Columbia and out to the Pacific Ocean beyond Portland city.

Martha’s Cottage in Dayton is where we are waiting and plotting the 2011 vintage from Tunkalilla Vineyard in the coolest growing season since 1954.

No grapes have been harvested in the Willamette Valley yet as dripping vineyards are left awaiting the last rays of sunshine and heat of the season, which they desperately need to achieve adequate sugar, flavour and colour before harvest.

Déjà vu! Wind time back to March and April in Australia as we waited for one of the coolest and wettest vintages at least since 1989.

The heat summation for the 7-month growing season (October 2010 to March 2011) at Foggy Hill on the Fleurieu Peninsula was a very cool 1118°C days, which is exactly the same as the heat summation for Tunkalilla Vineyard in the Eola Hills of Oregon for the 2010 harvest then hailed as one of the coolest and latest on record.

Records are made to be broken and the heat summation for the April to October 2011 growing season for Tunkalilla Vineyard is unlikely to exceed 1100°C days.

Fortunately the weather here is forecast to get warmer and dryer for at least the next week and the loose bunches of green looking Riesling at Tunkalilla Vineyard should achieve the final increments of sugar and flavour required to make a delicate and floral off-dry Riesling wine.

Tunkalilla Vineyard Riesling

Looking at the very tight bunches of Pinot Noir with stretched and translucent skins, the challenge will be much the same as it was in the Foggy Hill Vineyard in 2011, to extract enough colour and tannin to go with the undoubted cool climate Pinot Noir aromatics and flavour.

Pinot at Tunkalilla Vineyard

3 extraordinarily cool and wet vintages out of 3 over the past 18 months spanning northern and southern hemispheres and the prospect of another La Nina influenced cool and wet vintage in Australia in 2012 would make it 4 out of 4.

There is little time and space for the long-term implications of climate change while we deal with the short and medium-term implications of the weather cycles that dictate our vineyard strategies.


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