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Peter Garbin at Garbin Estate Wines where winemakers, table grape growers, restaurateurs and tourism operators from the Swan Valley attended End of Vintage. Picture: ANITA McINNES

Vintage 2017 certainly had it all

END of Vintage 2017 included a mix of humour and talk about the future by people displaying stoicism and determination, which are probably essential traits for anyone working in viticulture.

When the Swan River flooded on February 11 it cost Swan Valley table and wine grape growers millions of dollars.

Some growers had their vines flooded while others lost grapes when the berries split due to the heavy rain and humidity, which followed.

About 120 people attended the End of Vintage at Garbin Estate Wines on Thursday, May 11 where Sittella Winery assistant winemaker Yuri Berns was asked to shed light and some sort of humour on a harvest and vintage that had just about had it all.

“There was a fantastic start to spring with cool weather and optimum rainfall contributed to slow and steady ripening conditions, not seen in many years and the vineyards and grapes looked fantastic,’’ he said.

“Christmas and New Year were a breeze, no need to worry about picking early this year, the party season was extended, beers were cherished, glasses were cheered what more could you ask for?

“Well lots of rain at a less than ideal time doesn’t help.

“A few vineyards went for a swim, some stayed dry, a couple of varieties suffered, but there is not a whole lot you can do, so such is life.

“This really is the thinking winemakers’ vintage and from the majority of winemakers, the perspective of whom I have spoken to, verdelho and shiraz are still the stand outs, with more refinement, higher natural acids, and more delicacy and ethereal characters not of this world.

“I am excited to see the resulting wines of this vintage as these could actually be some of the most drinkable wines the region has made in a long time.

“To be honest I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“To be Swan Valley, means you must persevere, endure, outlast and fight for every millimetre of what it is to work in this character rich region.

“Once in a while we have to be reminded either by mother nature or ourselves, about the outstanding consistency in product we can produce here in the Swan Valley, and variability is the furthest thing from what we achieve every year.’’

City of Swan councillor and Grape Growers Association of WA president Darryl Trease said it had been a very tough season for table grape growers with all losing fruit through the heavy rains.

“But there was still some good quality product available,’’ he said.

Cr Trease said numerous plantings of new varieties would give the industry a boost.

“There are new emerging markets, particularly export, growers should be looking to take advantage of and like any business if you offer a quality product it will sell so keep the standards high.”

After the February flood Cr Trease said the estimated loss for the table grape industry was $10 million to $15m.

Swan Valley and Regional Winemakers Association president John Griffiths said Sittella, Entopia and Riverbank vineyards had been flooded.

He estimated about 100 tonne grapes had been affected by flooding compared with 1000 tonnes grapes worth about $1m affected by splitting after 140mm rain, which would conservatively cost wine makers about $15m in lost income.

By Anita McInnes

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

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