2015 Vintage Summary
Burch Family Wines oversee a huge viticultural project which spans the South-West of WA and is focused on family-owned and grower vineyards in Margaret River and the Great Southern. The scope of our fruit intake and the area covered gives us a unique insight into the conditions in both of these premium wine growing regions.
2015 definitely presented more challenges for both growers and winemakers than previous recent vintages and rewarded careful preparation, the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and good decision making.
Margaret River vineyards produced lower than expected grape yields across all varieties in vintage 2015 – the cause can be traced back to adverse weather conditions that affected primordial bud formation in September 2013, followed by atypical cool and unsettled conditions in November and December 2014 which impacted flowering and fruit set. Great Southern vineyards were also affected but not to the same extent, although hail events in Frankland in December 2014 were highly disruptive to many growers in this Great Southern sub-region.
Aside from this, conditions through the rest of the season were highly favourable for the development and ripening of quality grapes. Winter was warmer than usual and a wet one for both regions, securing water supplies for the entirety of the season. The January and February growing period was dry and sunny without any extreme heat events. White varieties were picked early with great sugar accumulation, well matched with seed ripeness and flavour development. It was very exciting for us to complete the first Chardonnay hand-picks from our recently acquired Broomstick vineyard in Southern Margaret River, which is renowned for growing some absolutely sublime MR Chardonnay.
Reds at first appeared destined for an early harvest, but cooler and wetter conditions in March slowed things down and tested both the palate and patience of our winemakers searching for that elusive perfect balance between sugar, ripeness, flavour and quality and texture of tannins. A warm and dry mid-late April in the Great Southern has rewarded our decision to extend the ripening of our top cabernet hanging in the old vine Abercrombie vineyard in Mount Barker, with these grapes now displaying superbly complex flavours.
In our two wineries in Denmark and Margaret River, vintage 2015 saw the usual influx of a United Nations of talented traveling winemakers and cellar hands. We had representatives from New York, California, Veneto, Amsterdam and Cote Rotie amongst a smattering of keen Australians! Great teamwork and camaraderie was evident amongst the vintage crew who put their skills on display from the very first intake of sparkling base in February, and many of whom are still with us as the extended WA vintage approaches its end. In Margaret River the resident ping pong table proved particularly popular and a fantastic diversion during the extended gap between picking and processing the whites and the reds – some longstanding rivalries have been established that will probably cross international borders before they are settled! Inevitable hiccups and equipment failures were taken with good grace and solved with that typical mixture of ingenuity and perseverance which epitomises premium winemaking in the wild and isolated West.
It's still early days to make any kind of definitive judgments, but we are excited about the results we’ve achieved in our family owned and managed vineyards and through the strong relationships we have with established growers in Margaret River and the Great Southern. Our encyclopedic chief viticulturist David Botting has already begun crunching an avalanche of 2015 vintage data with an eye towards the 2016 harvest!