Coonawarra heralds a smashing vintage

Coonawarra heralds a smashing vintage

The 2024 Coonawarra vintage was declared open in smashing fashion last week with a crowd of more than 60 people gathering at the iconic Coonawarra Siding to herald in the new season.

The vintage launch ceremony saw Coonawarra and district community members, wine industry stakeholders and dignitaries come together to acknowledge and celebrate this significant time in the region.

A Welcome to Country acknowledgement was followed by the echo of bagpipes, a nod to Coonawarra’s founding father Scotman John Riddoch, performed by Coonawarra Vignerons patron Doug Balnaves and supported by Neil McLean.

Coonawarra Vignerons’ Executive Officer Hugh Koch led the ceremony and emphasised the importance of vintage, not only to the Coonawarra community, but for the national economy.

“Vintage in Coonawarra is more than when a wine’s grapes are harvested. It heralds the anniversary of a new year in Coonawarra, where we reflect and say goodbye to the previous season,” he said.

“As a community it is the commencement of the economic driver that sustains our economy, creates our jobs, gives us our services, drives our visitation, and continues to put us on the map as one of the most pre-eminent wine regions of the world.

“A new vintage also allows us to reflect on our past years, the people that have laboured and led the development of Coonawarra.”

On what was a glorious Autumn morning, attendees were treated to a stomping and smashing spectacular.

Taking centre stage at the launch with the support of Coonawarra Vignerons patron Wendy Hollick was Wattle Range Council chief executive Ben Gower, Balnaves of Coonawarra winemaker Jacinta Jenkins, and Belgian visitor Lynn Hamerlinck, who kicked off their shoes to take park in a traditional grape stomp on the Coonawarra Siding platform.

Patron’s Greg Clayfield and Doug Bowen marked the occasion by smashing a bottle of Coonawarra wine (the previous year’s vintage) to symbolise the conclusion of the 2023 season, and to christen the new vintage.

“Traditionally a wine bottle is broken over a ship’s hull before its maiden voyage and to wish it good luck for a successful journey,” Mr Koch said.

“It is only appropriate that we adapt that tradition by creating one of our own, to symbolise the christening of the 2024 vintage (V24) and to wish our producers well, in the conditions and circumstances be the very best to allow Coonawarra ‘smooth sailing’ in harvesting and crafting the most premium wines possible.”

The ceremony provided the perfect opportunity to give an overview of the V24 with conditions resembling that of a traditional vintage, according to collective comments from viticulturists in the region.

“Across the country, wine regions have been met with a somewhat earlier than usual vintage,” Mr Koch said.

“Our region experienced a cooler spring, with favourable warm conditions throughout the flowering period.

“A humid and windy northern weather system dominated in late December and early January which provided additional work in the vineyard to combat disease outbreaks. Mild conditions accompanied little rain in mid – January and February has been punctuated with bursts of heat which has been most favourable for both white and red varieties.”

Mr Koch said much of the region’s whites had been harvested with wineries across the region springing in to action this past fortnight to harvest Coonawarra Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and also Pinot Noir – destined for sparkling whites.

“Yield is expected to be moderate but pending the next few weeks, quality for red grapes is looking to be excellent. Current conditions will allow Cabernet to be picked late March,”he said.

The Vintage launch ceremony was followed by a ‘sparkling’ morning tea with community members raising a glass to V24 and pass on well their wishes for the season.

Andy Clifford, owner and caretaker of Yallum Park – John Riddoch’s original homestead, congratulated the organisers on the event.

“The Coonawarra Vignerons have done a wonderful job to initiate this celebration,” he said.

“The morning was sensational. The atmosphere, combined with the bagpipes was just priceless! The energy and inspiration the vignerons are bringing to the region is commendable.

“I wish all the growers, producers and winemakers well for this season.”

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