At long last – 2023 delivers a “Goldilocks” vintage

Hunter winemakers were monitoring their vines anxiously as La Nina unleashed its power on the East Coast for the third consecutive year, breaking monthly, annual and decades long records. The Hunter didn’t escape, with record rainfall followed by a cool wet spring.

Chris Tyrrell of Tyrrell’s Wines was circumspect. “It was a tough start, but also our third wet vintage in a row, so we knew what we had to do. Full credit to our viticulture team who did an incredible job, proactively managing the vineyards.”

Tyrrell’s were fortunate to get their tractors onto their vineyards whereas many water-logged vineyards required helicopters for spraying. But then the rain stopped, followed by a long warm dry spell. According to Chris, “In my 20 years I have never seen extreme water stress turn to heat stress so quickly. By Christmas it looked like we were in drought and people needed to irrigate. It was very confusing.”

The warm weather kicked everything into gear but a hailstorm on 4 January shredded several Hunter vineyards. “Geography matters a lot when it comes to rain or hail events. We were lucky with only 5% of the crop affected, but some vineyards in the direct path of the storm had losses as high as 25%. However, we needed some luck and for the rain to stop if we were going to see a ‘just right’ Goldilocks vintage,” he added.

Summer delivered mild to warm days and cool easterly breezes without any searing heat. This set up perfect conditions for a long, even ripening period with a late start to vintage.

Chris commented, “The wines taste like a warmer vintage but they have this stunning cool vintage chemistry. Our Chardonnay quality looks immaculate, with magnificent fruit purity and drive. Our Semillons have the power and weight of the much-heralded 2014 vintage, but with this fantastic acidity. They will be long lived.”

Chris is particularly upbeat when it comes to the red wines of the vintage. “The chemistry is so good. There is fruit intensity with stunning colour and crazy freshness, brightness, good tannins and balanced alcohol from the long growing season. It’s a big call but I think the 2023 vintage is a 9 to 10 out of 10 for reds, and a comparable vintage to some of the greats like 2007, 2014 and 2018.”

Despite the challenging start, the 2023 is a rare stunning vintage for both reds and white wines. Head out to the Hunter Valley wineries and stock up your cellar.