Vintage is the most defining and challenging moment each year and in the Hunter Valley, with its sometimes humid and rainy nature, this can be magnified.

From a viticultural point of view, the story of 2013 started after the harvest of 2012. Pruning commenced in May and into June as per normal, with a reasonably wet winter which enabled us to start the year with a full profile of soil water.

Spring was very dry with supplementary water used in early October due to the dry conditions, which continued throughout the growing season. As a result of the dry conditions bunch numbers were similar to average, however bunch size was much smaller with small berries and bunches. The result saw yields down substantially.

A week of hot weather was seen over the New Year period with five days of 38°C+ which did cause the vines to slow down and lag a little in terms of flavour development. However, with the ensuing hot dry conditions came relief from pests and diseases.

As usual January is a nervous waiting period in the winery. We are busy cleaning, repairing and preparing for the “avalanche” of activity. It is an exciting time of year which sees new crew members helping out. This year we had vintage staff from across the globe, Roberto from Italy, Johannes from Germany, Manuella from Brazil and Melanie from France. We also had some Aussie helpers too, Amy from Coonawarra and Adam from Mornington Peninsula.

The first grapes were picked on the 17 January and most of the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and some Semillon being picked by the time we had a rainfall event in late January.

This rainfall continued through early February causing some interruption to harvest, this is a critical time for the Semillon and Shiraz varieties and rainfall is not welcomed as both varieties have thin skins which ironically don’t like the wet conditions.

Due to reduced yields this year we had to adopt some “small scale” winemaking techniques and for the first time some Shiraz parcels were fermented in half tonne grape bins adapted for fermentation. Some Pinot Noir parcels were pressed off using a tiny manual basket press, and some Shiraz parcels were pressed using a small scale hydro press.

This year the Old Hill Shiraz vineyard (planted in 1880) was picked by two teams. The first team only picked the “best of the best” fruit bunches. All parcels have been kept and treated separately. A labour intensive procedure, and a luxury, but well worth the effort and expense since this fruit is streamed for our best red wine.

A sensational year in terms of quality resulted with lots of new product experimentation. We had the opportunity to trial some exciting small batches like a Shiraz Montils co-ferment, high solids wild yeast oaked Semillon, whole bunch extended maceration Shiraz, Moselle style Semillon and a field blend of three different varieties picked and processed together.

Overall 2013 for Mount Pleasant was excellent, for all varieties and wines.