Vintage Report 2018

Published on August 25, 2018

case moth
a beautiful case moth, but no sign of bud burst one week after the usual time

Winter was extremely dry and colder than usual, with a particularly cold spell with frost at around our normal time of budbreak. The vines were slow to start growing with Pinot noir 2 weeks behind time.

Wildlife seemed desperate for food - two dozen kangaroos share-farming, a flock of wallabies and several possums raiding the vegetable garden every night and sugar gliders and feather-tail gliders coming in for water.

retarded growth
retarded growth in October


October gave us cool and overcast weather with frequent drizzle of no substance. Dams in our area were very low at that stage and a lot of people relaying on rain for their drinking water had to buy in water.
The vines simply didn’t grow and what little vine growth we got was eaten by the hungry wallabies, again, and again.
But no, we don’t think the solution to any problem is a gun.

viens eaten by wallabies
Vines grazed by hungry wallabies
vines with wilting growing tips
undersized shoots and wilting growing tips in November
viens eaten by wallabies
little is left after wallabies

Eventually a heavy thunderstorm on November, 17th poured out 10 mm of rain in 10 minutes, but it mostly run down the paddock and the following weeks were around 30°C and the growing tips of our vines started to die. The rain promised by the Bureau of Meteorology never came – a sure sign of drought.

wanderer caterpillars
We never had so many caterpillars of Wanderer as this year.
wanderer caterpiiar
And for the first time we found them actually
puppa of wanderer butterfly
turning into the spectacular moth
wingless grasshopper
Wingless Grasshopper in huge numbers
wanderer butterfly
Wanderer, also called Monarch
grasshpper damage
grasshopper damage

And the next sign of drought, the grasshoppers, arrived in numbers never seen before and started to do severe damage. Our chickens and several hundred Ibis thought it wonderful, but we had our reservations. Some years it is heartbreaking to watch the destruction and wait for the natural balance to restore itself, without racing out to spray insecticides.
But yet again we got away without!
In November we noticed that surprisingly, vines in moister areas of the vineyard were growing even slower than the super dry ones. Presumably the usually spoilt vines have a smaller root system to support them in times of drought. However, due to the dry weather fruit-set was excellent and produced full bunches.

dry conditions in early summer
Beginning of summer: dried up already.
green paddock in mid summer
Mid summer: turning green again, but the grass is very short.
Kangaroos grazing
Kangaroos, helping us with the grazing management
Just before the year ended as the driest on record we had one very good rain event, followed by two more two and five weeks later, in January. The farm turned green again, and the vines, fruit trees and eucalypts made up some of the growth they missed in spring. Grape berries were blown up to a good size and we started thinning heavily.
vine eaten by wallabies
Wallabies surviving on vine leaves...
vine eaten by wallabies
...eating the same vines ...
vine eaten by wallabies
...again and again.
wombat hole in the vineyard
....moving in...
..trying to look innocent, cute and cuddly.
2 ringtail possums

The ringtail possums under the shed roof doing the bio-thermometer. Rolled into 2 little balls in cold weather.......
...and stretched out on their backs, tails hanging out and paws waving when it is hot.

2 ringtail possums

And then the one hot day of the season burnt a lot of grapes, tomatoes, apples, peppers and other things. It only takes one day sometimes to spoil a whole year’s work.

sunburned grapes
sunburnt vines
after just one
sunburned grapes
hot day.


The danger in drought conditions is that the grapes just shrivel rather than ripen. This causes high sugar levels, but also high acid, unripe flavours and tannins and generally unbalanced wine. However, with careful irrigation we managed to keep the ripening process more or less even.

vineyard with birdnets
netting against the birds
vineyard with birdnets
in windy conditions
vineyard with birdnets
got still done in time.
blue-tongue lizard
young blue-tongue lizard
grey shrike-thrush
grey shrike-thrush
swamp rat
swamp rat

Vintage started on the 2nd of March and we were very glad to have more pickers than usual to deal with the fairly high yield and quickly maturing grapes. Five weeks later all the grapes were picked and fermenting. Yields were good and flavours and colours intense.

grape picking

grape picking

grape picking

buckets with grapes

grape picking

Overall not an easy year, but quite a promising vintage!