2016 Tyrrell’s Vintage Report – Edition 3…from Bruce Tyrrell

Mon, February 8th 2016  /   No Comment

The week before last was Chardonnay week and last week was Semillon week. Last week also gave us the great quote for Vintage…vineyard manager, Andrew Pengilly, and his offsider, Pete Hickey, to the winemakers…“the fruit was in perfect condition when it left the vineyard…what have you done to it?

Last Saturday week we started Semillon in earnest with our second Stevens block and half of Pokolbin Hills. If you sent away an order for Semillon, the Pokolbin Hills is what you would have asked for. It was nice to know early that we had one great Semillon in the tank. Monday morning early, started the machine on HVD Lost Block and Steroids Block, which went for two and a half nights. The hand pickers were in Johnno’s Old Vines for the Basket Press and then started on the Short Flat for Vat 1. We didn’t finish picking the Flat until Wednesday night as there is a lot of cutting out and hand sorting of rotten berries. This makes picking slow and expensive but the end result was worth it. Hand picking costs have been between $700 – $1,000 per tonne, which is $9.00 – $15.00 per dozen. Machine harvesting is around $1.00 per dozen. Thursday morning, we were ready to go into the Old Vines on HVD Semillon. I got up at 3.00 am and it was dry, and then again at 5.30 am and we had 17.5ml of rain. The fruit was too good to pick wet so we sent the pickers home and lost a day. By Thursday night it was clear enough to start machine harvesting again. With the loss of Thursday, we increased the number of pickers on Friday and got through two thirds on HVD. Again, there was a lot of cutting out and sorting to do. With equivalent of 1,000 dozen HVD Semillon in the tank, we decided to go to Belford on Saturday and get as much of that off as possible. The fruit was much cleaner there and we were able to get across it quickly. The photo to the left shows the 90 odd pickers at Belford but more importantly, the people up on the bins double checking every bunch and cleaning out any imperfect fruit.

In general, the weather for the week was in the high 20’s with some cloud cover and a bit of breeze; almost perfect conditions for picking grapes. The decision to wait for the flavour to come into the Semillons and the green hardness to disappear, certainly worked for us. The winery are talking about Semillon like 2006; they are all about 11% alcohol, plenty of flavour and softness. A major problem this last week is having enough working leaf to get the Semillon flavour ripe and this will be a problem with the Shiraz. Vines that were picked a week ago, now look like it’s the beginning of winter. Much of the leaf damage is a result of the three hail storms. We will finish all of the white by Wednesday morning at the latest then the first 10 tonnes of Shiraz will go through the crusher tomorrow morning. After a full test of all the Shiraz to be hand-picked this morning, we will pick about one third this week and then wait until probably Tuesday the following week. Most of the testing is between 11 – 12.5% alcohol equivalent and will be good to get tomorrow morning’s batch through the crusher to see how much extra sugar we pick up from the number of dehydrated berries in each of the bunches. I would suspect that in two weeks time, Vintage in the Hunter will be just about over.

We have had a great week of Semillon and are probably the last winery in the district to finish picking whites. We now have about 700 tonnes through the crusher. There is a band of big high pressure systems across the bottom of Australia, which should give us two weeks of fine weather…….fingers crossed.

Bruce Tyrrell

Leave a comment