The 2021 Victorian vintage
With healthy yields in the Yarra Valley, ideally timed rainfall and ripening season temperatures tracking long-term averages, 2021 was an idyllic season for cool-climate varieties. Chardonnay was a highlight, gris the best in several years, and pinot noir perfumed, ethereal and outstanding. Higher yields and cooler conditions favoured growers who moderated yields in shiraz and cabernet, producing generous wines of immediate appeal.
The Mornington Peninsula delivered a textbook year described as ‘quite possibly the perfect growing and ripening season’: wet winter and spring, the mildest of mild summers and a classic autumn Indian summer that never seemed to end. Bountiful yields of chardonnay, pinot gris of vibrant natural acidity, and pinot noir and shiraz of extraordinary colour and flavour confirm a very special vintage.
Geelong, this cool, long growing season favoured warmer sites. Wetter conditions made vigilance in fighting Downey mildew prudent, while conditions across the region during flowering produced significant variation in yields of pinot noir.
In Gippsland, cool conditions and well-timed rainfall made for a vintage plentiful in both quality and quantity. Chardonnay and viognier were standouts, thanks to unusually high acid levels.
Similar conditions in the King Valley made for the best vintage in several years, albeit with some yields moderated by lower-than-average bunch numbers.
At the time of writing, harvest was still underway in the Alpine Valleys, with one top grower leaving his post at the fermenters to sum it up for me as ‘very protracted but frickin’ awesome for those folk with low crop levels!’
Likewise in Beechworth, a late harvest yielded good to exceptional quality.
Picking was more condensed in Upper Goulburn, with most varieties ripening together, and showing strong promise.
Henty experienced moderated yields in some varieties after a cool flowering period, though chardonnay and pinot noir were more generous, making for later ripening. Quality was reported as excellent across the region, particularly across earlier ripening varieties.
The Macedon Ranges enjoyed a ‘quite incredible’ season, cool and wet, made – rather than saved – by a sunny and warm autumn of golden days and cool nights. Average yields of ripe but very bright pinots, and chardonnays of excellent concentration and cool acidity, prompted great enthusiasm from the region’s top growers.
Sunbury suffered in volume due to weak shoot growth following 2020 frost. Quality was strong, thanks to even ripening producing whites of clean fruit and good acid balance, and spicy reds of strong colour.
Nagambie Lakes reported excellent sparkling and whites, with reds still coming in at the time of writing.
Strathbogie Ranges experienced a season not overly wet, but with well-timed rain events ensuring ‘happy vines’. Slightly heavier crops in this cool season saw red harvests carrying all the way into May, while sparkling, whites and pinot noir showed considerable energy and drive.
In Bendigo, a mild growing season and extended harvest produced bright fruit flavours at lower baumes, very good natural acid levels and reds of intense and vibrant colours – an excellent year for both whites and reds.
The year 2021 in Heathcote delivered what one high-profile winemaker described as quite possibly the perfect growing and ripening season: ‘The wines will be of the highest quality and winemakers will sleep well through a long winter of content!’
In the Grampians, a very cool to mild summer was summed up as ‘almost like we went straight from spring to autumn, skipping summer … a winemaker’s dream!’ Slow ripening led to challenges with managing acid levels, but careful management produced quality of above-average levels.
The Pyrenees reiterated Victoria’s idyllic theme of timely rainfall, good yields, long ripening and protracted picking, producing whites of great natural acidity and reds of impressive concentration.
In Rutherglen and Glenrowan, moderate temperatures and regular rain events up to bunch closure made for high-quality whites of pretty aromatics and bright natural acidity, elegant and well-structured reds and fortifieds infused with the concentration of elongated ripening.
To discover more regional insights from the 2021 Australian vintage – click here.