Grape Ripeness Yarra Valley 2023. Too Cold?

For the second year in a row, there have been headaches for wine producers in the Yarra Valley. The 2022 vintage produced beautiful fruit,but only 1/3rd of the expected yield. Ouch! The bunches of grapes looked like miniatures. This meant that the quality was excellent, but lacking in volume. This lead us to the key question. Was it too cold in the Yarra Valley for perfect grape ripeness in 2023?

Deep breathes were being held,  once again,  when a cold wet growing season had befallen most of Victoria. This includes the key wine regions of Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Bellarine Peninsula, and Macedon Ranges.

Below average temperatures, and well above average rainfall left many Yarra Valley vineyards water logged. This has many detrimental side effects. As the soil has no chance to drain,  oxygen can’t penetrate into the soil profile. If this condition persists for too long, the vines can show signs of almost drowning. They have very limp leaves, and can sometimes show some browning, even on new leaves. A bad odour can occur, as the soil has no chance to expel the stagnant water.

Of course, consistently wet vines can encourage mildew to attack the leaves. Traditionally, a safe copper sulphate spray is applied via a mechanical sprayer on a tractor or similar machinery. Unfortunately, these vehicles damage the inter rows, which become deeply furrowed by their weight on the sodden soil.

Further to this sad state of affairs, the vines have an inbuilt survival strategy. To preserve precious resources, they produce very little fruit. Another ouch! Thankfully, Bacchus the God of Wine showed mercy upon us poor wine lovers. Gradually, in early January 2023, the rain stopped. The temperature started to rise, and the soil started to breathe again. Like all of us!

Grape Ripeness – Summer 2023

Although the ripening of the grapes started 5 to 6 weeks later than expected, if the warm (not hot) conditions continue, we may be in for a very good vintage indeed! Fingers crossed, grape ripeness in the Yarra Valley in 2023 may develop slow and steady. Much like the classic cool climate vintage of 2017.

Here we see a beautiful bunch of Pinot Noir grapes at Helen’s Hill Estate,  mid Feburary 2023.

Ripening Pinot Noir grapes in 2023. Fingers crossed – Just a few more weeks of warm weather, to get a delicious wine!


More information on tours exploring the vines and grapes can be found on our Tours & Pricing page

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