We don’t see a lot of water out here at Mount Langi Ghiran. The dry, slightly parched feeling is becoming ever so familiar to me, and is now something I strongly associate with premium cool climate winemaking in the best regions of Victoria, such as the Grampians. For my wife, however, who hails from the Gold Coast, living at Mount Langi Ghiran in the Grampians and being solely reliant on rainwater, has been an awakening.
We experienced an awakening in a more literal sense in the early hours of Thursday, 28th of January.
At 12:30 am, we were abruptly yanked from our sleep to the sounds of the skies opening up on our tin roof. Half an hour later the pitch and timbre of the sound changed along with an extreme escalation in volume; a sound so loud and so coarse that it made my ears ring and my skull shake. As my daughter yelled, “What’s going on Daddy!!”, I switched the verandah light on to the sight of marble sized hail covering the front lawn and beyond. This continued on for 15 minutes, before the sound changed again, back to rain. One hour in total, and it was all over. All the while, immense energy surrounded us as purple bolts of lightning lit up the view of the vineyard; these flashing moments revealing hints of what damage would reveal itself to us in the cold light of day.
Walking through the vineyard that morning with Viticulturist Damien Sheehan, the mood was somewhat sombre, heightened by a sense of shock. The north side of the vines bore the brunt of the storm, tender berries gouged and battered and the leaves in tatters. It’s fair to say the vineyard had been hammered.
We winemakers tend to be an optimistic bunch. When your craft is so reliant on the randomness of the elements, and at the mercy of the many threats we encounter in our environment, it is important to look for the potential and the positive at every opportunity.
Already, we could see that there was some incredible fruit that had been unaffected. It was also a reminder of how fortunate we are at Langi to have such low disease pressure due to our climate and geography. If there was ever a time to see disease run riot through your vineyard, it would be on a humid morning, hours after hail had sliced open much of your fruit. But no disease came. The damaged fruit has disintegrated to nothing. The rest of the fruit is showing some magnificent flavor, and acid levels in the grapes are astonishingly perfect. I’m certain this fruit will offer us the scope to craft some wonderful shiraz with great purity and elegance.
Exactly one month on, we have selectively harvested all of our Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. We have ended up with small, precious volumes of our best parcels, but they promise to be of very high quality. Shiraz is still a few weeks away, and evolving slowly and gracefully… as it does at Langi.
This year, forced by the events of nature, we must be even more selective than what we already are, and even greater attention to detail will be required; I see this only as a good thing. Our picking crews are skilled, experienced and 100% sharing in our dedication and commitment to getting the best out of this vineyard in 2016. We now have a sorting table. Not only will the hand picking be extremely selective, but so too will the selection of every berry or bunch that is lucky enough to enter a Langi ferment.
We need to be flexible and agile as winemakers, and we never, ever stop learning. There are a lot of positives to take out of a vintage that will go down in history as being, at the very least, memorable.
And we got some rain.
Mount Langi Ghiran