Vintage Report 2024

Vintage Report 2024

Garbin Estate Wines Vintage Report of 2024.

Vintage started on the 1st January this year, 3 weeks earlier than usual, 21 days earlier than last year. It was an extremely warm season than what we are used to here in Perth but now becoming more prevalent. Here is the weather report starting from Winter 2023 to Summer 2024 with majority of observations from Swan Valley and Perth Airport weather stations and finishing with the 2024 vintage report. 

Winter rainfall was close to average this season for the Perth metro area, recording 424.2mm this winter, which was 7% above its Winter mean rainfall (394.9mm), and the wettest Winter since 2019 (434.8mm). Swan Valley had a total of 297.2mm of rain, roughly 80mm less than last Winter. A few extremes in Winter were the hottest day recorded at 30.2 degrees at Perth airport on the 31st August, a new record (only 10 minutes from the Valley). We also recorded the coolest nights in the Valley, on average at 7.5 degrees. June was the coldest and wettest month of our Winter season, with most of the rain recorded at the start of the month, in what’s becoming more of a normal dumping pattern of rain with no consistency.

Pruning started early June in the Swan Valley and towards the end of June in Gingin. After a smaller yield last season, we decided to implement new strategies to increase total yield on all varieties. This included a change in pruning method from leaving 2 spurs and 3 buds per spur, compared to 1 to 2 buds last season. The return was high for all varieties noting 50-100% more crop compared to the previous season. The final change was laying extended arms down on our 25-year-old Shiraz vines in Gingin, because of the age of these vines, we saw a decline in fruit production. Implementing this change has now produced more fruit.

Vineyard management this year was primarily focused on keeping diseases out of the vines, after a cooler than normal vintage previously, it was a harder battle with susceptible varieties. The spray schedule was changed with prone varieties carefully monitored and timing set to early mornings and late afternoons before sunset to achieve effective results.

The Swan Valley vineyard had organic matter spread as fertiliser to increase and promote microorganisms in the soil. The Gingin vineyard received a general NPK fertiliser. Cover crop selected was green manure seed for its nitrogen rich quality, which in turn releases more nitrogen in the soil when cut.

Spring rainfall recorded 56.8mm in the Perth Metro area for 2023, which was 39% of the Spring mean rainfall (147.0mm), and the lowest Spring rainfall on record.

The Swan Valley had 97.2mm which was on the higher end of most sites across Perth but still very low. Perth Airport had several record above average temperatures for mean maximum (27.2, +4.2 degrees higher) and minimum (13.2 +0.7 degrees higher, record held since 1963). The hottest day in the Valley for Spring was 40.2 degrees on the 25th of November and the lowest temperature 5.5 degrees on 4th October. We saw 29 days over 30 degrees in Spring compared to only 8 days last Spring. Looking over these stats now, this was the first telltale sign that vintage would be early this season.

Summer was scorching this year, a big change from last season. Rainfall totals were less than 10mm at most sites, 80% to 99% below summer average rainfall. Summer mean maximum temperatures were 1-3 degrees above average. Perth Airport and a few other sites had their highest Summer temperature on record. The Swan Valley had 15 days over 40 degrees compared to only 2 days last season, with a maximum temperature of 45.1 degrees on 1st of February. February’s heat was hellish, with two large heat waves only a week apart both with 4 days over 40 degrees. We were glad to see the end of Summer this year but with our good water planning the fruit resulted in higher quality.

Vintage truly began on Christmas day when Adam was scrolling on social media after a Christmas brunch. He announced from the loungeroom to the dining room that one of the wineries was picking their fruit in the next few days. That news sparked talk of work at the dining table and I tried to avoid the topic on this one day of the year.. (thanks Adam).  This sparked everyone into gear, checking the baume of their fruit to find its ready to go or closer than they expected. Now in late December early January, lots of wineries were trying to organise getting their fruit off the vine.

Vintage started in Gingin on Tuesday the 2nd of January, starting with the ‘young block’ Chardonnay as base wine to be made into Sparkling Chardonnay. This was after a last-minute decision to split the pick of ‘young block’ Chardonnay to sparkling and ‘old block’ Chardonnay to make a Reserve Chardonnay. This was decided days before when reviewing stock in the wine shed and realising that the Reserve had been selling a little too well. The weather reached a maximum of 30 degrees and the fruit was picked in the low 20’s. We had issues with fruit cartage this year after our regular truck driver couldn’t do the work this season. Luckily, we had another contractor who we know well, and he did a great job.

Last year I made comment about looking forward to having nice neatly hedged rows to harvest over, with the grape harvester. This was done with a hedging attachment purchase by Peter and it did not disappoint. It was also the first time we did not lift wires, an experiment we trialled this season to let the fruit get some shade cover and yes, it was the right year to do it. This was done as this block has a north-south facing orientation and the idea was to protect the fruit from the late heat and scorching the berries. The outcome noted was that it didn’t play a big difference and could have been left not lifted due to early heat. The fruit was still of good quality.

Last season the speedometer stopped working in the harvester and it took us a full year to get the part after much negotiations interstate and overseas. This unit measures ground speed and is vital to taking the fruit off correctly with minimal damage to the vines and fruit. It was installed just before the season started but unfortunately wasn’t working, the part isn’t cheap too. Then we also had issues with the beater speed reader, this unit measures how fast the beaters shake the vine to drop the fruit. At this point I’m driving on instinct with a phone app for gps ground speed. Unfortunately, a few vines in the chardonnay did suffer as a result of the beater speeds being set too fast which made Peter very unhappy. Luckily we were able to get in touch with a Gregoire harvester expert over east and he was able to walk us through using facetime in getting everything back online. I’m proud of our efforts, Peter and I have no electrical backgrounds and at a few points almost gave up as there is just a nest of wires to follow, but we persevered and were happy to see to the end of this problem. Cheers Jason.

On the 6th of January vintage started in the Swan Valley with the hand-picked Chenin Blanc. It reached a top of 35 degrees that day with most of the picking done in the low to mid 20’s. This property is all hand-picked fruit as the harvester cannot turn around at the ends of our boundary.

The 14th of January saw big fires up towards Gingin with one that threatened our property and closed off access onto Lennards Road. It was a scary time and happened right in the middle of vintage which is already a tense time of year. The harvesting of the Gingin clone chardonnay was done that morning, and with power lines down, we couldn’t use our water to wash down the sticky harvester. Thankfully we still had water left in the irrigation lines up hill and this was enough to give the harvester a quick wash down. The fires finished about 500m short of our property. Peter has now purchased a pull start firefighting water pump that doubles as a harvester wash down unit, this can pump from our dam when the power is out.  The Gingin estate did experience smoke in the area, however after sending samples away for testing, I can confirm that none of the varieties suffered smoke taint, another relief.

The reds started on the 13th of January in the Swan Valley with the Merlot for sparkling base, unheard of for this time of year, and 20th of January for Shiraz sparkling base. These two reds came off before we finished the white wines, which is not ideal, as you then need to wash and clean all the processing equipment thoroughly so that no red will taint the white wine colour. The last of the whites processed was the Semillon harvested on the 22nd of January at the Gingin estate. It’s safe to say that this season, the harvest was very condensed.

In early February the harvester experienced elevator issues, these bring the fruit to the onboard bin sitting above, this turned out to be caused by extra mog (matter other than grape), once cleared it was smooth sailing until the last pick of Shiraz on the 7th of February. Finally the fruit for the fortifieds was picked in the middle of February and marked the retirement of our original picking team from 1995. Thank you for all your help. The 27th of February marked the last day of production and vintage for 2024.

Dates and varieties
Young Block Chardonnay Gingin- 02/01/2024
Chenin Blanc Swan Valley- 06/01 
Gingin Clone Chard Gingin- 14/01
Verdelho Gingin- 17/01
Semillon Gingin- 22/01
Muscat Swan District- 20/02
Merlot (Sparkling Base) Swan Valley - 13/01
Shiraz (Sparkling Base) Swan Valley- 20/01
Cabernet Sauvignon (rose) Swan Valley- 27/01
Cabernet Sauvignon (rose) Gingin- 28/01
Sangiovese Gingin- 05/02
Shiraz (Old Block) Gingin- 06/02
Shiraz (Waldron) Gingin- 07/02
Shiraz (liqueur) Swan Valley- 10/02 

Thank you for reading. – Joel
With special thanks to all family members for their contributions, Peter, Katrina, Adam and Froy (the border collie).

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