Each year in late summer/early autumn (February/March) grapes ripen and are ready for harvest. Winemakers refer to this time as “vintage” as it is at this time grapes enter the winery and begin their journey to become wine. Harvest 2023 in the Grampians is almost here!
2023 is Adam Louder’s 39th vintage. An amazing achievement for the 42 year old.
How is vintage 2023 shaping up?
Each vintage is different. The biggest influence is the grape growing conditions, which are determined by the weather.
The growing conditions for vintage 2023 included lots of spring rain thanks to La Niña. This rain led to humid conditions creating disease pressure in early summer. Adam spent a lot of time in the vineyard looking for disease which luckily didn’t eventuate! A warm, dry summer has reduced the disease pressure and the focus now is on grape ripening and keeping wildlife (mostly birds) away from the vines.
How does Adam approach each vintage?
We should put a pedometer on Adam in late summer as he walks the vines every day inspecting grapes and vine health. As the grapes ripen, he starts tasting. He tastes grapes on his walks in the vineyard for more than two months. This process can start as early as February and continue to April/May – it all depends on mother nature. In the peak of vintage, Adam will taste more than 100 grapes a day. He squeezes the grape and looks at the grape skin, observes its texture and how juicy it is. He tastes the grape for flavour, sweetness and complexity. Then he spits the grape out. Guess who doesn’t eat table grapes at home?
What’s more important in making a high quality wine – art or science?
Winemaking is a combination of art and science. The art part is all experience. From his 38 previous harvests, Adam has developed a very refined palate. Using his intuition he is guided by taste as the primary marker. But he’s not against the use of science, in a supporting way. A refractometer is a small, handheld tool used by Adam that uses a prism to measure baumé. Baumé is a measurement of dissolved soluble solids in grape juice and indicates the grapes’ sugar level and ripeness. Sugar converts to alcohol in winemaking, so this is an indicator of the potential alcohol in the wine.
Adam will start tasting grapes in early March this year. Once he is happy with the grape texture and flavour he will begin picking and the winemaking process begins.
It’s is an exciting time. Every vintage is different. You never know what challenges you’ll be thrown.
Every winemaker likes to talk up the vintage, but what we do know for harvest 2023 in the Grampians is that the temperatures have been milder which means slower ripening. As they ripen slowly, grapes develop a more complex taste. Complexity means a wine is multi-faceted. Many types of aromas, flavours, and layers of depth on the palate. In other words, delicious.
In the words of Adam,
“We’re still a few weeks away from picking grapes. Not long now and we’ll get the first taste of what vintage 23 will deliver.”