The lead-up to the 2011 vintage was very different to past seasons. A strong La Niña event dominated the weather pattern, bringing a wetter than average winter and the coldest for 13 years. The drought was broken across the country with floods in the eastern states and a return to high river levels and full dams. The wettest spring was recorded, with the coldest average spring temperatures since 2005.
Vine growth was extremly vigorous due to high soil moisture levels and regular thunderstorm activity. The wettest December day ever was recorded on December 7. Summer was generally mild, with one rainfall event mid-January and three days in the 40s at the end of January. The spin-off from Cyclone Yasi and monsoonal activity in the north and west brought more unseasonal weather across the southern regions of the country. Weather conditions encouraged the spread of powdery mildew and downy mildew, with the highest levels of disease experienced since 1992/93. There was also a return of plague locusts through the region, causing damage in the more isolated vineyards.
Veraison began in mid-February, heralding a late beginning to the harvest. Thunderstorm activity continued through February with mild temperatures causing a nervous anticipation to the impending vintage. Rain, high humidity and mild temperatures continued through March, making it one of the wettest since 1974. This affected the ripening but allowed for early flavour development and maintained acidity. The humid, wet conditions encouraged the growth of botrytis, making hand-selected fruit essential. Despite the difficult conditions, the flavours in the Eden Valley whites, in particular riesling, were incredible.
The lead-up to the 2011 vintage saw a return to normal conditions. A milder winter with average rainfalls led into a cool spring and a late budburt, interspersed with numerous significant rainfall events beginning at flowering, accompanied by persistent morning fogs, as well as snow in October and frost in November. This led to some crop loss in some of our more sensitive varieties susceptible to downy mildew. Despite this, vine growth and fruit development continued at a steady and even pace.
Summer was generally mild with significant thunderstorm activity largely skirting Lenswood. Veraison began in late February, heralding a late beginning to the harvest with mild temperatures causing a nervous anticipation of what was potentially a very high quality crop. Only powdery mildew could affect the outcome, so great attention was paid to leaf plucking around bunches and disease monitoring.
Bunch and berry weight were lower, which resulted in lower yields and greater concentration of colour and flavour in the fruit. The unseasonal rain, high humidity and mild conditions during autumn encouraged the spread of fungal diseases. Botrytis developed quickly under ideal conditions, making hand-selection essential. Fortunately, the cool summer had allowed for early flavour development at lower than normal sugar levels, and despite the difficult conditions, the Adelaide Hills produced some excellent whites, in particular riesling and sauvignon blanc.