Swan Valley vintage off to a grape start

WINE grape harvesting in the Swan Valley has got off to one of the earliest starts on record.

Growers started picking some white varieties as early as January 2 – about two weeks earlier than the previous vintage, which was also considered an early harvest.

The vineyards are becoming parched due to the Swan Valley receiving its lowest winter rainfall in at least 15 years.

A hot and early start to spring also spurred the vines into early growth, allowing vineyards to thrive through the pre-summer months.

Temperatures in October were five degrees above average.

Swan Valley and Regional Winemakers Association president John Griffiths said this year was the earliest harvest in his 23 vintages in the Swan Valley.

“We actually would have picked on New Year’s Eve if we could have got pickers,” he said.

“All of the grapes are early and we should be picking reds before Australia Day.”

Mr Griffiths said the warmer weather made for wines with very forward flavour with a lot more sweet and fruity characteristics, while cooler years produced wines that took longer to develop and less obvious fruit characteristics.

He said the Swan Valley needed a good winter rain this year.

“We are relying on irrigation, which is good to supplement a good soaking from the rain, but it’s no replacement,” Mr Griffiths said.

Swan Valley’s vintage celebration, A Vintage Weekend in the Swan Valley, will see wineries open their doors for people to watch the winemaking process.

A range of events featuring fine wine, food and music will be held from March 11 to 13.

The full program will be released later this month. Go to www.swanvalleywinemakers.com.au for updates.