Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon were outstanding in 2012, with flavour development and acids progressing smoothly due to the cool, overcast conditions in spring and early summer. These cool conditions helped along by low crops, led to great varietal expression in whites and reds – with reds exuding brilliant colour.
In 2012 there were 13,612 hectares of vineyards in Barossa and 61,857 tonnes of wine grapes were crushed in that vintage.
Overall, there was a cool start to the season, followed by a cool January. The exception was a burst of warm weather around New Year which coincided with the start of veraison.
Warmer weather followed late January which, whilst ripening the fruit beautifully, also led to much weight loss and therefore contributed to the already lower yields in most varieties. Bunches were very small and there were fewer berries per bunch due to the cool overcast conditions during fruit initiation, particularly in Cabernet Sauvignon.
A rain event at the end of January freshened up the canopy, and there was evidence of minor splitting, however this healed up quickly with the warmer weather.
Overall, the quality of reds was exceptional. Shiraz yields were lower than average by around 25%, with Grenache yields down around 10%. Cabernet Sauvignon yields were well below average (down 20-40%).
The earlier varieties, Riesling and Semillon, and the later Cabernet Sauvignon set well and provided well balanced crops.
Milder summer conditions and cool nights helped develop great flavours and good sugar to acid ratios, particularly in Riesling which was picked late February to early March.
Following the rain in late February, later varieties such as Shiraz ripened in drier, cooler conditions through March to early April, providing some excellent flavours and tannin maturity.
SA Wine Grape Crush Survey, Vinehealth Australia and ‘Barossa Vintages: a wine history from 1842’, Peter Fuller