2016 Tyrrell’s Vintage Report – Edition 2…from Bruce Tyrrell

Fri, January 29th 2016  /   No Comment

Friday 22nd January, went to dinner feeling quite pleased with the first few days and about 8.00 pm we had 40 mm of rain in one hour. There was absolutely water everywhere. I went to Broke on Saturday morning to check John Tulloch’s Verdelho and it is a long time that I have seen as much water running around out there. Started picking the Tulloch Verdelho on Saturday morning and finished it early Monday morning. The crop was down about 30% on last year but he had a massive crop last year…….and normally a small crop follows a big crop. We had clearing skies Sunday and Monday, no rain, a bit of wind and temperatures in the mid to high 20’s and that temperature has maintained throughout the whole of this last week. So much for the Hunter being a hot climate.

Our vineyard manager, Andrew Pengilly, and I went through all of the Chardonnay and Semillon on Sunday morning and the Semillon was all still green but the flavour in the Chardonnay had just started to come into the fruit and it was ready to go. The fruit was all starting to go golden and showing some early signs of rot. On Sunday afternoon I thought this vintage will remain a day by day affair and we will need to be flexible enough to move where the ripe fruit that is ready to pick.

Monday, hand-picked the Old vines Chardonnay on HVD and the pickers’ were surprised and very proud that they were picking the oldest Chardonnay vineyard in the world. At the same time we were machine harvesting Shim’s block next door. This block is named after Alan “Shim” Thompson, who lived on HVD and worked there almost all his life. When we bought the vineyard from Penfold’s, the first thing they insisted on was that Shim and his wife can remain rent free in the little house on the property for the rest of their lives. Funnily, six weeks after we bought the vineyard, they moved into Cessnock.

Looked around the Semillon again and although it looks ugly from the hail damage that accounts probably for a loss of 5% or less, and much of the affected fruit beginning to dry up. We did our first good test of Stevens Semillon today and hopefully, we will get some of that off Friday 29th January. The weather forecast is for an afternoon storm so we have switched mechanical harvesting to early morning starts.

Tuesday, had overcast but a fine morning. Moved into the Old Vines and Well Block Chardonnay. Australia Day picking cost at $57.00 per hour, but the fruit needs to come off and I am concerned that if we stop picking Chardonnay that we will begin to lose too much fruit. Started in Penfold Vale with the machine picking Chardonnay and went all day without getting bogged. The forecast is for more rain on Friday night so the decision is to push on and get all the good Chardonnay finished before then.

Wednesday, hallelujah……another fine day. Temperature mid 20’s, 70% cloud cover. This was the biggest day of vintage with 70 tonnes processed over seven different batches of grapes. Everything went to plan; all the logistics for the day were a breeze. I was glad we picked yesterday as the Chardonnay on the Short Flat is starting to get more bunch rot. We picked about a third of the Stevens Semillon today, which looks good. The rest of it is either not ripe or too wet.

Thursday morning, looked out the window at 4.30 pm and it was dry, but at 6.00 am it was mizzle (the English play cricket in it, and we pick Chardonnay in it.)  All cleared up by 7.30 am with less than 2mm. Hand picking team had a long day and we finished all the Vat 47 material by about 2.30 pm and by 6.00 pm that night, had about 90% of Penfold Vale Chardonnay in the winery. Last of the Verdelho for the 2016 vintage came in from the Tinkler’s and we will end up within a tonne of our Verdelho budget. The first tank we picked, which is based on John Tulloch’s 1926 block, will make very good Fordwich Verdelho and the rest will go to Old Winery and will be between 11.5 – 12% alcohol, which is just where we want it.

Friday morning, no hand picking until Monday and after this week, the pickers’ deserve a rest. The harvester is back in Penfold Vale with about 6.5 acres left to pick. We should get half of that before it gets too wet so we will only lose four or five tonnes, which is a lot better than we thought at the beginning of the week. If we try to pick all of it, I reckon the harvester will disappear out of sight. So, all the Chardonnay (bar two tiny blocks) will be picked today. We are sampling all of the Semillon and I would suspect we start in earnest on Monday with the plan to be finished with all the Semillon by Tuesday next week.

This morning’s forecast is for storms tonight and maybe Sunday night, but the week or so after that looks clear and thankfully, this morning the wind has turned around to the north west, which will work in our favour drying the vineyards out.  Every spare tractor is out slashing today as the grass in the rows seems to grow about a foot a day. A good week with some good Chardonnay in the winery and let’s hope we are in the same position with Semillon this time next week. There are a lot of people already picking Semillon and the few I have seen look a bit thin and green. As we did last year, we will wait until the flavours are right and sacrifice some quantity to get quality.

Bruce Tyrrell

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