Eden Valley – 2003

2003 was one of the worst droughts in history, with rainfall at only 70% of the previous year. This left the soil moisture profiles and dams lower than at the start of winter. Spring was frosty and windy, but not overly wet. The frosts in October were bad news for many, although the rains were at least strategic, which resulted in better fruit set than last year. The hot, dry and windy weather during summer has stressed the vines severely, which has resulted in smaller berries and a reduced crop. This season has often been likened to 1983, which is obviously remembered more for the horrors of Ash Wednesday and the Barossa flood than the drought.

The vines looked surprisingly good for the dry season, however the crops were light, except for riesling. The ancient dry-grown vines groaned as they searched deep with their old gnarled roots for any faint sniff of moisture. Even those growers who had been able to use some water couldn’t reverse the drought. Growers were talking about a crop reduction of up to 30%, but it was far worse. Then just as the vines were succumbing to the hot, dry conditions, the heavens opened. Not just a sprinkle, but serious rain of around 75mm over 24 hours, enough to split the grapes and cause even more grief for the long-suffering grower. The country turned green overnight and the split grapes shrivelled up. In the final wash-up the damage wasn’t that bad, although the old dry-grown shiraz suffered the worst, leaving virtually nothing on the vines. Mount Edelstone was one example. The vineyard was half-picked at 5 tonnes, where in a normal year we would get 80 tonnes!

This year must surely go down on record as being one of our hottest, driest and windiest summers leading to a smaller vintage of potentially very good quality. The small crop was a blessing in disguise, too, with the impending grape and wine glut looming closer. Timing of the harvest was similar to 2001, due to the heat and lack of subsoil moisture. Another vintage for the record books!