2017 Vintage Report.

2017 Vintage at McLeish Estate Wines and across the Hunter Valley wine region progressed really well and there is great optimism about the overall quality for this year’s vintage. The season has provided excellent quality with all the Semillon grapes harvested by the 6th of February. The quality conditions have allowed the Shiraz flavour to build as the fruit ripened. Coupled with still functional leave and canopy management, up until our final harvest day on the 23rd of February, are all contributing factors to some lovely varietal fruit characters.

The harvest this year has been the best one yet! A mild December led to an extremely hot start to the year, with both January and February exceeding the 40 degree mark in the vineyard on various days throughout the start of harvest. Temperature peaked on the 11th of January at 45 degrees and remained in the high 40’s until the 19th of January. Over this period the region had a high fire danger and surrounding townships experienced fires. This extreme heat has meant the fruit continued a balanced and long ripening period. These conditions, coupled with minimal rainfall have created excellent picking conditions for our crew with the pleasure of hand harvesting pristine fruit and with no mud under foot throughout the two months. Verdelho and the Estate Chardonnay where the first varietals to be harvested.

With the first rainfall on the 21st of January (11.4mm) followed by 26.2mm on the 25th of January, allowed for some relief and a cool change was welcomed to allow the vines to hydrate, followed by another spike in temperature leading to the second Chardonnay harvest on the 31st of January.

Our Estate Semillon Block 2 harvest began on the 2nd of February, the first harvest provides us with the backbone and tighter acid structure. Then, with the proceeding long hot days, we completed the Semillon harvest on the 6th of February, rounding out our highly regarded Semillon with varied Baume (sugar) levels, giving us texture and balance in younger Semillons without forgoing the wines cellaring potential. The greatest reward for the 2017 vintage has been the pristine conditions, our pickers experienced no muddy days and overall the fruit was clean.

Moving into the Estate reds. The 11th of February recorded the hottest day on record at 46.8degrees. Naturally we Googled the comparison to the Sahara Dessert which averages a temperature of 46 degrees throughout summer. It was certainly a hot Vintage in the Hunter! For our Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon the drier conditions, and high grape numbers, have resulted in superb quality and equally higher yields. Our team were happy with the crop levels, and the fruit quality for all varieties are looking very promising. We have been fortunate to experience a continuation of some dry weather to finish the 2017 harvest.

The varietal purity in this year’s whites are excellent across the Semillon, Verdelho and Chardonnay. A portion of our Estate Chardonnay is now maturing for 10 months in French oak to gain texture and roundness. The reds are outstanding, carrying the clean, flavour filled fruit through to pressing. The colour is simply incredible from the reds this year, we are all excited about the quality of the reds and look forward to taking them out of barrel in 2018.

Compared to 2014 where there was a touch of rain, this vintage we are rating as one of the best to date! A comparative vintage would be 2005, which produced outstanding wines under similar climatic condition.

Cheers to the Wine

Robert McLeish