In September of 2023, the B.O.M. (Bureau of Meteorology) announced that the summer season of 2024 would change from the ‘La Nina’ pattern of the 3 previous years to the ‘El Nino’ climate phase. This prediction appeared logical, as spring soils commenced with extremely low moisture content, in complete contrast to the conditions and soil profiles at the same time in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
As predicted, ‘budburst’ was early, and ill-formed shoots also began flowering early. These events, coupled with strong spring winds and warm days, meant that irrigation scheduling, along with an abundant supply of water, would prove critical.
Against predictions, solid rainfall occurred during November and December, which had viticulturists and climate specialists sceptical as to exactly what conditions were going to prevail during the rest of the 2024 summer season.
The consensus among viticulturists at ‘veraison’ (adaption from French language for ‘berry colour change’), was that the grape harvest would commence in early January, and despite the impeccable fruit quality, crop yields would be significantly lower than original forecasts (up to 50% down in some cases).
These predictions proved to be accurate and the Draytons ‘Bull-paddock’ Chardonnay was picked on the 11th January, with the ‘Pinchen’s’ Semillon to follow on the 13th January, which was three weeks earlier than the previous 2023 Vintage.
The summer season did remain in ‘El Nino’ phase and extremely hot 40-degree days in January ensured the remaining harvest of grapes was rapid, with only the Cabernet varieties (Sauvignon / Franc) holding out until the first week of February.
The final outcome was that, while grape quality was of the highest standard, the quantity (or yield), especially varieties such as Chardonnay, was disappointing. Unfortunately, this is the nature of Australian agriculture and the unpredictable Hunter Valley climate.
I’m very impressed by the high quality of wines produced from the 2024 harvest, and look forward to putting the aromatic white varieties into bottle (earlier than normal as well) for our members and customers enjoyment, whilst the maturation of our Chardonnay and red varieties slowly takes place in oak barrels.
Mark 'Smithy' Smith
Draytons Winemaker

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