Sarah says Sparky always raves that the wines which we are about to bottle are the best we have ever made, and she is more restrained and moderate in her comments. But this year she is so excited that she is saying it, because they are absolutely stunning, and definitely our best vintage ever.
2009 was a blessing, after the drought and two weeks of temperatures above 100ºF in vintage 2008. We did have a heat wave in early February of 2009, and some of our neighbours picked in a hurry in case the sugar levels in the grapes went up as fast as they did in 2008, but we hung in there, and fortunately the heat wave only lasted a week. It was an anxious time and Sparky said that another few days could have put us in a very dangerous position, so when another heat wave was forecast in March, I was right on the ball and phoned him in the middle of the night, telling him that everyone around us was picking. The Vale looked like a moon scene with weirdly lit harvesters chugging up and down the vineyards, and tractors with overflowing picking bins rushing along the roads. The heat wave hadn’t arrived, but as the grapes were almost ready, everyone was picking in case it did. I wondered if he thought that we should pick too, but he said “Relax, go back to bed, if everyone else picks, there will be plenty of water for us, and we’ll be able to hold the sugar levels until the grapes get the fruit weight we need.”
And that’s what happened. There was no heat wave, and we had plenty of water to hold the sugar levels where we wanted them. The vines continued to ripen evenly and majestically, and as the shoots matured, the grapes increased in colour and flavour, and the seeds ripened to give us the lovely silky seductive tannins we look for.
The last two weeks of the Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme™ are very important. Towards the end of the programme the Marquis Fruit Weight™ of the grape juice usually increases by an additional 10% every half week, so two weeks can make the difference between picking a block at 50% fruit weight (where it won’t even qualify to go to bottle under the Mollydooker label) and at 90% fruit weight (where it will qualify for Carnival of Love or Enchanted Path).
We have had two dramatic illustrations of this.
In 2006, a company which we had contracted to purchase the fruit from the block next to ours at Gateway, picked half of our block by mistake (!). After a frantic middle of the night dash to McLaren Vale by Sparky, we managed to get the fruit, which fortunately had not been mixed with any other, and made wine with it. We picked the other half of the block two weeks later, when we thought it was ready. The early picked section qualified at the Boxer level, the later picked section qualified for Velvet Glove. Same block, same variety, different length of time for the watering programme to work its magic.
And in 2008, when we were hit with the two week heatwave, and our supplier of recycled water wasn’t able to provide the water we needed, we had to pick earlier than we wanted, and chose to sell over 500,000L of the resulting wine as bulk wine, and to make only Leftys (great Leftys, great value, but tragically no high ends). Even Sparky wasn’t saying it was a great year that year!
But 2009 was perfect. We picked when we wanted and everything went brilliantly in the winery.
The blending is finished now, and we will start bottling next week.
- Janet (Sparky's Mom)