Vintage 2021; a vintage to remember

New Year, New Winemaker – 2021 will be a vintage to remember!

It’s that time of year again and we have been hard at work in the vineyard harvesting what will become our 2021 releases. Early indications are that the pick is looking good, and the wines made from this year’s vintage are going to be incredible – a vintage to be remembered for years to come for its depth of flavour and richness.  So start clearing space in those cellars.

Where did it all begin?

The season began with solid rainfall over winter that continued throughout the growing season.  Some intense winds during flowering affected bunch numbers, but fruit set was consistent. Less bunches means more intense flavours in the final product, so while this can be tough for the winemakers it’s good news for consumers.  50ml of rain in early January is unusual for Geelong and added pressure on the vines, but conditions post-early Jan rains were optimal with minimal rain, no extremely hot days and nice cool nights.  Perfect for slow ripening and flavour development.

Chardonnay was the first varietal to be picked for Austin’s, starting in the last week of February with our last pick on the 12th of March.  Over three separate hand-picking days we managed to balance some zesty citrus aromas, grapefruit and lovely crisp structure, with some tropical, apricot and honeydew flavours.  The grapes were whole bunch pressed and cold settled before being barrel fermented in some lovely French oak.  We’ve put around half of the barrels through Malo this year, so the final blend will be a lovely combination of creaminess, texture and body, while retaining those fresh, zesty aromas that are the hallmark of cool climate chardonnay.

Our Austin’s riesling was harvested in the cool of the night on the 10th of March, reaching its peak balance between sweetness, acidity and flavour.  After being transferred straight to the winery, it was destemmed gently into the press and treated with the utmost care to ensure no oxidation occurred.  Maintaining those beautiful floral notes is paramount here and during fermentation these really came into their own, lovely notes of green pear, frangipane and lime zest.

We’ll let this year’s riesling spend a touch of time on lees to ramp up the texture before filtration and bottling.  For aged riesling lovers, this is going to be a riesling that can sit in your cellar and open a few years down the track, but if old wines aren’t your thing, there’s no need to wait – this beauty isn’t even bottled yet and is already showing is elegance.

One of our strengths at Austin’s is the amazing diversity within our pinot noir vineyards.  This year our first pinot blocks were harvested on the 1st of March to use in our rosé (yes, our sell-out 6Ft6 Rosé will be back!).  The remainder of the pinot was picked between 10-20 March once the flavour profile began to show cherries and raspberries, with hints of plum and clove for some of the riper vineyards.

Our pinot is harvested in the cool of the night and handpicked in the early hours of the morning (before the ambient temperature gets too high) for our Austin’s brand.  A combination of whole bunch as well as destemmed fruit in our fermentations is really delivering that silky tannin and generosity on the palate you will have come to expect from our award-winning pinot.

Dwayne’s top pick

My favourite parcel currently (which is earmarked for Austin’s) is our C-Block pinot noir, which shows a great combination of intense fruit driven freshness and crunchy tannins.  This is already tucked away in some lovely French oak barrels (25% new) and will continue to expand with complexity and spice as it matures in oak.

What’s Next?

Our whites have all now finished fermentation and are sitting in barrels or stainless-steel tanks.  When it comes to our Austin’s chardonnay, patience is key in finding the right balance between those lovely cool climate primary fruit flavours and their interaction with that spicy oak.

Our pinot is also spending some time in oak, where it will continue its natural progress through Malolactic Fermentation.  Once this is finished, the barrels will all be tasted and fine-tuned – adding a touch of sulphur to help protect the wines and tweak other components to ensure each barrel is complementing and supporting those classic pinot flavours.  After 6-9 months of barrel maturation, further barrel selection will continue until we have identified only the best pinot for our flagship Austin’s 2021 pinot noir.

Want to get to know our new winemaker, Dwayne? Read more about him here.

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