Vintage 2018… good, bad or ugly?

With vintage 2018 well and truly behind us, it’s time to take a look at how regions across Australia and in particular, the Adelaide Hills have fared this year.  I might even drop a few hints on which 2018 wines you should add to your cellar (wine fridge, spare room wardrobe, kitchen cupboard…).

The big picture…

2018 was a pretty good year!

Growing conditions across most of the country were favourable, with disease pressure low. And that is because it has been so dry.

The Bureau of Meteorology reports that the January to April period was the seventh-driest on record for south-eastern Australia! And total rainfall for Southern Australia was the third lowest on record for April. That probably explains why it seemed like we were endlessly watering our gardens this year!


2018 was one of the shortest vintages on record in Tasmania, but nonetheless, yields were at or above average. The quality of 2018 whites are set to be genuinely outstanding – particularly Riesling and Chardonnay.

New South Wales

The first region to kick off the 2018 Vintage in Australia was the Hunter Valley – picking started in early January. The dry growing period resulted in high-quality grapes, with Chardonnay, Verdelho, Semillion and Shiraz the varieties to look out for.

Western Australia

Western Australia had an exceptional vintage. Good rainfall during spring and early summer and an extended period of sunny but cool weather through February, March and April. The result was optimum ripening conditions with very low disease pressures.


Quality of grapes was excellent but a wet December caused some yield losses in parts of the state due to downy mildew. While vintage looked like being early, fruit ripening slowed towards the end with harvest extending out until mid to late April.

South Australia

According to the Wine Grape Council of South Australia warm, dry weather produced exceptional grapes with intense colours and flavours, across all regions. Go SA!

The whole state seems to have produced great quality grapes with limited disease and great ripening. It’s definitely a year to invest in some South Australian wine!

And the Adelaide Hills specifically?

Hamilton Viticulture provides the region with a comprehensive season review as a part of CropWatch SA. Here is an overview of this vintage’s review:

Despite extremes in weather during the vintage 2018 growing season, the final stages of both flavour development and sugar ripening combined to result in wines that will reflect the advantages of growing grapes in the Adelaide Hills.

Dry conditions in June 2017 threatened depleted soil moisture levels, not seen since the drought conditions experienced in the late 2000’s. However, welcome rains in July corrected this deficit which was fortunate as the growing season rainfall was only 69.1% of the Long-Term Average.

Bud-burst was late for the vintage 2018 season, almost as late as recorded in the wet and cold conditions in the unusually late vintage 2017. However, soil temperatures rose steadily resulting in an even bud-burst, although shoot growth was significantly slower than usual. For the second consecutive season, the fruit zone was compact and shaded, and it was not until the second week of November that the rate of shoot growth returned to normal. Fortunately, from a disease viewpoint, rainfall was below average and most vineyards reported minimal disease pressure.

Fruit set throughout the region was average to above average. Canopies developed to be as large as vintage 2016 with full capacity to ripen crop loads.  January, February and April were the warmest recorded in the last eight seasons. Fortunately, a cooler than average March enabled ideal night temperatures for colour and flavour development. A long slow ripening, particularly for red varieties, resulted in wines that will be remembered for their depth of flavour and colour.

In other words… get yourself some fabulous vintage 2018 Adelaide Hills wines!!


Fifty vintages and still going strong…

Vintage 2018 was just one in a long history of vintages for Rob – this year marks fifty of them in total!

Next week I will be interviewing Rob and providing you with an insight into the highs and lows or fifty years of winemaking.

What would you ask if you were me?

Post your questions in the comments and I’ll ask for you!

From the winery: barrel update

This week we head into the winery to Robin Moody, Somerled wine maker in the barrel hallhave a look at what’s happening behind the scenes with some of Rob’s creations which he is lovingly nurturing…

  • 2017 Fumé and Chardonnay:  These wines are both looking sensational and will be heading to the bottling line very soon. And a point of interest for the Chardy die-hards among us… a couple of the barrels are already particularly caramelly… yum!
  • 2017 Pinot Noir: Still in barrel and is elegant, with a beautiful structure. It looks light, but the flavours are delicious! It is due for a rack & return and will also be bottled before vintage begins.

Rack and Return is a term which describes the process of pumping the wine out of barrel and then returning it once the barrels have been cleaned and any remaining yeast lees (dead or residual yeast cells) have been removed. This helps to get some air into the wine, keeping it nice and fresh. It also helps to soften the tannins and allows blending of the different barrels for consistency in the bottle.

  • 2015 Shiraz: This particular vintage has now been in barrel for well over two and a half years. It was recently transferred to tank and is now ready for bottling. It looks lovely – beautiful typically Somerled chocolately flavours! It will then spend between one and two years in bottle where it should develop those estery Penfolds-esque characters. Rob likes to move away from his Shiraz being a simple fruit & oak wine to it having much more complexity and interest, which include these interesting aromas. This is also one of the reasons he leaves it barrel for so long, so it has developed some of these already.

So what does “estery” mean exactly? It’s a difficult term to describe and even Rob struggles to define it. Basically it is a compound called ethyl acetate which is produced from a reaction between ethanol and acetic acid. Wines with too much acetic acid are described as having Volatile Acidity (or VA) which, at high levels, is a fault in the wine. However, Penfolds are known for having a small amount of VA in their reds and for Rob this characteristic is very desirable AT LOW LEVELS… just enough so it combines with the other characters of the wine to sort of lift it and add complexity.

So, I guess you could liken it to walking a tight rope… Rob has the skill and finesse to tread this fine line, to ensure the delicate balance is maintained.

  • 2016 Shiraz: Was recently racked and returned but kept in two separate batches due to some slight differences in flavours. If they remain significantly different, and one stands out from the other, this will inform Rob’s decision to blend further down the track. Or not!
  • 2017 Shiraz: Even at this very early stage, the 2017 vintage is looking great with nice intense fruit flavours. This one looks to be yet another fantastic vintage out of McLaren Vale. Watch this space!

Is your favourite Somerled wine Rob’s deliciously rich and smooth Shiraz? Which is your favourite vintage? Let us know in the comments below.


And don’t forget to tune in next week, when we’ll have a chat about our “Trophy-winning” Sparkling Pinot Noir!

Missed last week’s post? Catch up here.

Where to start…?

On a day like today, what better place than with Rob’s go to thirst-quencher… Sauvignon Blanc.

We source the grapes for this classic Adelaide Hills variety from a vineyard in Charleston where the season is shaping up to be a good one. Some early hail damaged the vines a little, which warranted a strict disease management program. Unfortunately, the wet and very warm weather resulted in some downy mildew, but the damage was insignificant.

Downy mildew loves wet and warm conditions… for those of you interested, the rule of thumb for optimal disease conditions is a minimum of 10 mL rain with the temperature not falling below 10 degrees over a 24 hour period.

The grapes are currently at early veraison (see picture) and still have a lot of growing up to do in fact each berry will double in size between now and vintage.Sauvignon Blanc graoes

Veraison is defined as the stage at which three simultaneous but separate processes begin.

1. Each berry soften as the cells within the grapes begin to produce more juice and the skin becomes thinner.

2. Sugar starts to accumulate and acidity of the grape starts dropping away.

3. Colour starts to change – in Sauvignon Blanc this is a change from emerald green towards being translucent.

But, what about this week’s hideous heat, I hear you ask?

Our growers are well prepared for short burst of hot weather and have been carefully metering out irrigation to counteract the stress and high water use of the vibes at this time.

Also, the relatively “cool” nights of the Adelaide Hills allow the vines to recover without losing their precious leaves.

In other words… don’t panic, they’ll be fine!


Want to know more? Ask us a question in the comments below.