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  • Your Hunter Valley Magazine

Vintage 2024


In winemaking terms, 'vintage' is picking grapes (harvesting) and creating the finished product. It is known as 'the crush' in some parts of the world.

 

The Hunter Valley is the first wine region in Australia to begin vintage and the first to finish. January and February are when fruit harvesting typically occurs, and at this time of the year, the winemakers and growers work closely together to determine the optimum time to pick the fruit to ensure the best wine quality.


By all accounts, Hunter winemakers and vignerons are extremely optimistic about the 2024 vintage, with the new year off to an early start with some winemakers harvesting grapes in the first week of January.


But as with all Hunter winemakers at this time of the year, nobody wants to come across overly optimistic with so much depending on the weather over the next few weeks.


In the lead-up to December, Spring provided terrific growing conditions, with late November rainfalls delivering a welcome break from the intense heat and a dry start to December. The last few weeks in December saw just over 90mm of rain, providing a much-needed soak to the vines - creating the perfect growing conditions for vintage 2024.


Semillon is one of the first varieties to be picked, followed by Chardonnay and Verdelho. The red varieties are generally harvested after the whites – which can occur from the first week in February.


In a region that has notoriously wet vintages, very high temperatures, such as the 40-degree temperatures that can occur at this time of the year, can place too much stress on the vines, causing the vines to shut down and stop accumulating sugar and ripening the fruit. In addition, sunburnt grapes can have a terrible impact on the juice – making it taste bitter, like burnt sugar or toffee. To avoid this, winemakers and vignerons let the leaf canopy grow longer on the vines to give the grapes increased shade protection from the hot afternoon sun and even spraying the vines with a type of ‘sunscreen’.


While a few days of rain often do not necessarily pose a problem, a sustained and heavy downfall could be dangerous to the crop. Direct rain can cause the vine to take in a lot of water, making all the cells turgid, including the grapes - which can burst. Hail, on the other hand, could destroy the whole crop in less than an hour.

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