Mentions of vintage disasters during 2007 will be reported over the next twelve months. Some correspondents like to not report the really bad parts because it affects how such a region might be regarded by consumers. So often the ugly parts of a vintage go unreported-such as the fact that some Great Southern WA vineyards did not pick a cabernet grape during the 2006 harvest. And Margaret River also did it tough with some thin cabernets being declassified.

The latest good news from this area comes in the “Mentelle Notes” March 2007 where winemaker Robert Mann suggests that Cape Mentelle will release a 2006 cabernet in 2010 (although there is plenty of time to re-evaluate), as this company has rushed to be reassuring amongst the many writings about a slim WA red vintage. Mr Mann goes on to explain that there will be limited stocks-undoubtedly from rigorous declassifying of the wines that remain which he quaintly calls restrained and elegant-the optimistic description for wines verging on green tannins.

The best way to announce that a region has enjoyed a reasonable vintage and thus stands on the quality stakes for 2007 is to diplomatically mention the vintage hassles that other regions have encountered. Then draw a positive position for the year against regions which dealt with bushfires (central and southern Victoria), frost (Tasmania, southern Victoria, south-east SA, northern NSW or Granite Belt), hail (Orange, Canberra and numerous isolated vineyards across Australia) coupled with drought (almost everywhere). “Mentelle Notes” succinctly points out the troubled areas (and therefore quality-threatened) and announces “unless of course you are in god’s own country-Margaret River-where 2007 is destined to be the greatest vintage ever”. Looks like Murray Tyrrell has a mimic! Mentelle’s viticulturist Steve Meckiff did not miss pointing out what wines are likely to look ordinary in 2007 with descriptions such as “the worst losses were experienced in some of the country’s best wine regions”. That can be interpreted further by implication to mean the regions mentioned in this article.

I followed the temperature maxima in Margaret River and watched “god’s own country” struggle with temperatures as high as 33 oC at the point of harvesting the sauvignon blanc. So it will not be the greatest vintage ever for sauvignon blanc and semillon blend wines because the hot ripening temperatures burn off the delicate tropical aroma characters. The same ripening complication occurred in Orange plus it rained.

I save my deepest sympathies for the growers and makers in central and southern Victoria who experienced bushfire dust events. Vineyards did not have to be under bushfire threat to have fire taint turn up in the crop-dust clouds, prevailing winds and heavy atmospheric conditions dumped the stuff at points far away from fire fronts. That fact that Brown Brothers rejected 2000 tonnes of grapes with fire taint explains the situation. Unlike TCA which is chiefly odorous this taint is both nose obvious and palate penetrating (smoked salami on the tongue). Smoked pinot spotting could be a game to supersede wine options! But seriously fire taint may emerge as a serious threat to the viability of the premium part of the Victorian wine industry if global warming promotes such summer blazes in future dry seasons.

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