Austin’s Wines 2022 Vintage Report, with Head Winemaker, Dwayne Cunningham

Austin's Vintage 2022 Team Photo

The 2022 growing season threw many challenges (hailstorms, severe rain, earthquake!!). Luckily here at Austin’s, we dodged many of the major weather events and had a successful vintage, in both quality and yield. 

After harvest in 2021, the vineyard held onto its foliage for a solid month. This is an excellent sign for fruitfulness for the following growing season. 

During winter the sheep were placed in the vineyard to keep weeds and grasses down. There was also consistent rainfall throughout winter. 

Pruning was completed in August and a later than usual budburst was combined with some extensive rainfall throughout September and October. 2021 had the highest October rainfall on record, with 118 mls of rain (one single day of 35mls). These heavy storms also came with sporadic hail within the area, something that is scary for a vineyard to deal with. Luckily damage was minimal at Austin’s and the vines remained unscathed.

Head Winemaker, Dwayne Cunningham

At times over the season we wondered ‘when will summer ever arrive?’. The vines needed some warm weather and rain kept coming through December. A spike in temperature from New Years day through early January kick-started veraison. A touch more rain in late January pushed things back a couple of weeks, and we knew we were going to be in for a late 2022 harvest. 

Australia day 2022 was a big deal here at Austin’s! Two mammoth changes that will shape our small family-owned business for years to come:

· Pieter Marais joined the Austin’s team as vineyard manager. Pieter has extensive experience managing his family-owned vineyard in South Africa. He has begun his journey at Austin’s and will continue the drive for quality and sustainability out in the vineyard.

· The Austin’s cellar door opened! After many years of planning and hard work, we were able to open our doors to the public January 29th. It has been a real highlight to welcome customers to our cellar door to enjoy the wines in a beautiful space with wonderful views.

Austin’s Cellar Door opened at the start of 2022.

The weather gods were kind from February onwards. The consistent ripening weather and lovely cool nights optimised flavour development. The soil retained plenty of moisture from the consistent rain. This facilitated ripening without putting the vines under stress. 

Our first pick of vintage is usually in mid February, yet in 2022 our harvest began with picking Pinot Gris on the 2nd of March. The Pinot Gris had lovely nashi pear and stonefruit flavours, with nice body and weight. This will remain on lees for a month, with regular stirring to gain some extra creaminess and texture.

An early pick of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay followed, to be used as a sparkling base for our 2022 Austin’s Cuvee. This will be barrel fermented in red oak to highlight lovely bright strawberries and citrus characters. It will develop more complexity prior to Tirage (secondary fermentation in bottle).

Austin’s Chardonnay ripened much later than usual. It retained some lovely natural acidity and a great balance of flavours. Hand picking began on the 9th of March, with three separate picks finishing on the 22nd of March. I like to space out Chardonnay picks to balance different flavour combinations (zesty citrus and grapefruit characters from the earlier picks, combined with more rich honeydew and weight from later picks). All Chardy went to oak for fermentation, with 50% wild fermentation (no yeast added). 50% were yeasted and underwent Malolactic Fermentation. Some lovely new French Oak (30%) was used to elevate the primary fruit characters, while also adding some spice and complexity. We ended up with 28 barrels of 2022 Chardonnay, that will mature in oak for another 6 months before blending and bottling. 

I’m excited about barrel selection in October for the 22 Austin’s Chardonnay. The diversity of flavours and styles we have in oak will allow for an amazing balance that shows what Geelong Chardonnay can deliver; lovely grapefruit and citrus varietal characters combined with some buttery and spicy complexity.

Pinot Noir Grapes

Pinot Noir harvest at Austin’s began on the 11th of March. It took over 3 weeks to harvest all our Pinot, with the final pick being for our Rent-a-vine program on Saturday the 2nd April. Each block was picked and fermented in open fermenters separately. Some of the highlights included:

· Austin’s Block 4AB (clone MV6) handpicked. 20% whole bunch were included in the open fermenter, with gentle plunging and pumpovers for 14 days on skins. Pressed directly to 25% new French oak barriques. Early indications show lovely raspberry and plum characters with a cab mac character giving a vibrant finish. 

· Austin’s Dam block (clone MV6) handpicked. Gently destemmed 100% with only whole berries and juice in the ferment. Kept cold (8C) for 6 days before allowing to warm up naturally and wild fermentation to begin. This Pinot was gently plunged twice a day and remained on skins for 24 days total. Lovely delicate cherry and perfumed aromas, with silky tannins. Also maturing in some lightly toasted French oak (20% new) to gather spice and complexity.

Austins Riesling was machine harvested in the cool of the night on the 25th of March (2 weeks later than 2021). The fruit remained in great condition and retained lovely natural acidity during ripening. De-stemmed gently into the press, with minimal oxidation during processing. I want to maintain those beautiful floral notes. Fermented between 13-16C and delivered lovely notes of frangipane, peach, and lime zest. Will spend a touch of time on lees for texture benefits before bottling. With lovely weight and flavours already, the 2022 Austin’s Riesling will be another cracker!

The Austin’s Shiraz was our last variety to ripen, handpicking and machine harvesting continued until the 8th of April. Canopy management and vine health were a focus throughout the growing season, and we are very happy with the results. Our premium block was handpicked, with 20% whole bunch included, and went through wild fermentation. After 14 days on skins some lovely pepper and plum characters are highlighted, with a robust chalky tannin structure that will deliver length and intensity. The Shiraz will spend 15 months in a combination of new and old French oak barrels (barrique and puncheon) to develop some vanillin spice, palate weight and roundness.

Whats next:

Our whites are all through fermentation and sitting in Barrels or Stainless steel tanks. Lees stirring of Chardonnay barrels and Pinot Gris will continue until enough depth and weight has been obtained. I will begin looking at blending some parcels for our 6F6 range and preparing them for bottling, whilst ensuring the Chardy continues to gather some complexity and refinement from oak. Oak selection is incredibly important, and I believe the balance of toast and spice is critical. The barrels must also elevate the primary fruit characters and deliver a balanced Geelong Chardonnay that is true to the region and Austin’s style.

The Pinot Noir and Shiraz is all safely in oak, with some barrels already topped full and sulfur added. This will help protect the wines through their maturation phase in oak for 9 months. Barrel classification will occur in Spring, where the top 10% of Pinot barrels will be selected and designated for Austin’s. Slightly more time in oak and some tinkering and fine tuning before bottling in February 2023. It is amazing how each batch of Pinot will change and develop over the 9 month barrel maturation, so regular topping, tasting and monitoring is critical.

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