RUTHERGLEN VINTAGE REPORT – BY DAMIEN COFIELD
The 2019 vintage in Rutherglen was a season of contrasting temperatures, dominated by a distinct lack of rain.
After a cool and dry winter, budburst was later in the Rutherglen region than in previous years. This was then followed by a mild and dry October and November that meant that flowering took place a little later than normal. At this time, yields throughout the region’s vineyards looked slightly lighter than average, however the positive sign was that the fruit load on the vines looked balanced.
During December, the season warmed significantly. Gone were the mild and warm days, with Mother Nature replacing it with very hot conditions, in particular over the festive period. There was no significant respite from this heat until the end of January. During this time, the vines were managed to ensure that water was kept up in irrigated vineyards in an effort to avoid any negative effects.
The management practices employed included leaving extra leaf numbers on the western side of the vines to give protection from the harsh afternoon sun. Also, many vineyards used a sunscreen spray over the fruiting zone, with many remarking how much cooler the leaves with the sunscreen were, compared to leaves which were not protected. Generally, the vines across the region handled these extreme conditions well.
Surprisingly, vintage began on average at the start of February, just as an uncharacteristic cool spell hit, resulting in temperatures much lower for the first two weeks of harvest. This allowed for some much-needed relief in the vineyards and the grapes developed their flavours much more slowly than had been expected during January. This also meant that varietal intakes were staggered nicely, reducing the load on Rutherglen’s wineries and allowing all fruit to be picked at the ideal timing.
The heat led to a further small decline in yields, however I am pleased to report that the quality is universally high across the varieties – with the reds being particularly strong this year.