“No two years the same” – A vintage update with our Orange Vineyard Manager, Mark Pengilly


 How is the season progressing?

 After 3 years of drought we now have water in the dams and full soil water profile to start the season. Things are looking up.

 Budburst commenced around 18 September at our Bellview vineyard, which is a little earlier than normal for its 650 metres elevation. Our Borenore Vineyard was a little more advanced than Bellview, positioned at the higher altitude of 860 meters. Unusual!

 We had a snow event on 26 September, after budburst, which was not good timing. Bellview had a significant frost event on 27 September which caused damage and crop loss. 

 With the cooler start and soils temps fluctuating with rain events, the vines have started very slowly. Now things have warmed up, the vines (and the grass) are growing rapidlyLots of slashing across the almost 200 Hectares of vineyard (plus headlands)Despite the challenges, our vineyards are looking surprisingly good.

 Where are the vines/production at currently?

 Flowering has finished across all varieties, the bunches have emerged and the berries are filling out. For organic farmers, this is a critical time in maintaining crop protection sprays leading up to Christmas. The type of weather patterns we have experienced recently, with heat and humidity plus regular rains, is favourable for both downy and powdery mildew infection in Orange.

 Do you have any predictions for the vintage ahead?

 With some varieties more affected by the early cold snap than others, yields in some varieties will be down, resulting in smaller and fewer bunches. The frost effect impacts varieties differently depending on what specific stage of new season growth they were on at that time. I suspect that the vine stress caused by years of droughts has also had some effect on fruitfulness this season.

 What do you think will be the standout varieties for the season? Why?

 Malbec is looking healthy with good amount of fruit. Chardonnay is looking the goods as well, and with low yields on shiraz this variety could be a cracka! In fact, low yields due to the seasonal factors I have noted, may just see even better even ripening and this could be a bonus in quality in the winery. Fingers crossed.

 For me, as I assumed responsibility for both Borenore and Bellview, given the challenges above plus some difficulty in finding suitable field staff, has been the busiest I have experienced in my 2 decades plus of viticulture; this year is further evidence that no two years are ever the same.