This is a great question and it’s something that the winemaking team has often discussed over the past few vintages.
General winemaking theory is that warm and dry years produce red wines that are more concentrated and flavoursome. Logically you might think that this would be the case for white wines too. However that doesn’t seem to be the case, if the vines are managed sympathetically, as there’s also a school of thought that stressed vines produce more concentrated fruit.
We’ve never subscribed to the ‘stressed vine, richer fruit’ theory at Tahbilk, although we understand that many vineyards are managed this way. We believe that vines produce the best expression of their potential when they have everything they need for good health, including water, nutrients and sunlight.
So, in dry years such as those of the recent ‘millennium drought’ (2000 to 2010), our vineyard team have had the irrigation systems cycling around the clock so that the vines always have available moisture. Prior to a heatwave the cycle is adjusted to shorter watering periods with a shorter time between each application that is, small sips, but less time between drinks. It’s a strategy recommended for humans, and the latest wine industry research also recommends it for grapevines.
The winemaking team also works very closely with the vineyard team during vintage so that the winemakers have a good understanding of how the vines are faring, especially if it’s hot.
Chief Winemaker Alan George has decades of experience putting together our harvest schedule and he’s very aware that ripening can get away from us, so he’s constantly in the vineyards, watching the weather forecast and tweaking the schedule to get grapes from each block into the winery at optimum ripeness.
So, getting back to the question – 2016 was one of the driest and warmest summers on record, but we think our 2016 white wines taste deliciously fresh and crisp.
And it seems that wine judges agree – our 2016 Tahbilk Marsanne won ‘The Australian Single Vineyard Wine Show Trophy for Best Other White Variety’ at the Cowra Wine Show, our 2016 Tahbilk Viognier won the ‘Best 2016 Dry White’ Trophy at the Perth Wine Show, and our 2016 Tahbilk Riesling has was awarded a Gold Medal at the Adelaide wine show (traditionally a very tough place for our Rieslings to pick up a medal).