Heathcote Wine Region, in Central Victoria, has grown a reputation as a great place to grow Shiraz. The region features a deep strip of rare, ancient, red Cambrian soil with excellent moisture retention characteristics, virtually eliminating the need for irrigation. It is this red soil that gives Heathcote Shiraz its distinctive character.
In our experience, 2017 was a great vintage. A cool spring with plenty of spring rain followed by a mild summer, made for a late start and therefore a late vintage. These conditions gave higher than average yields with no compromise on quality. We found full flavour ripeness at a lower baume (sugar level), which results in lower alcohol wines and great natural acidity.
Athol’s Paddock, our sturdy old Heathcote vineyard, found the extra rain to be perfect for its old dry grown feet. A naturally low yielding vineyard, this year had what we can only call the perfect crop - 14 tonnes off 20 acres! That might not seem like a lot, but it is seven times last year’s yield.
We have been employing some new pruning techniques in the last couple of years, with the low bud count resulting in less bunches per vine, so the fruit is more plush and ripens earlier. The changes in the quality of fruit since we implemented this technique have been incredible. The results were a more even, less stressed crop, with lower baumes (lower alcohols and better balance to the wine), and perfect pH and total acidity levels (meaning that no acid additions were required and therefore a wine that will age beautifully).
Due to the higher cropping of the 2017 vintage, we had the flexibility of being able to try a few different winemaking options to see what came out best.
1. 50% whole berry, 50% crushed berry wild fermentation in open fermenters. Three weeks on skins in total.
2. 100% new barrel fermentation where all of the new barrels for Heathcote had their heads removed and then fruit fermented directly in the new oak for best intergration.
3. Same as 1, but the wine was left on skins for six weeks total including a one week cold soak before fermentation.
4. Whole bunch carbonic in fl ex tanks. A very small component has made it to JSE rather than Heathcote as it is too pretty for a big red.
All of these components spent 18 months in oak, about 25% of which were new French oak barrels.