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The refurbished icon wine Tom Cullity 2013 from Vasse Felix was launched in Spring 2017. Before 2013 the icon red wine of Vasse Felix was called Heytesbury. The blend is the same Cabernet-Malbec but Tom Cullity is a single-vineyard wine unlike its predecessor.
Vasse Felix, Margaret River's founding wine estate, was established by Dr Thomas Brendan Cullity in 1967. Among his first plantings were Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec vines, from which he produced the estate’s first red wine. The Tom Cullity descends from these original vines and represents the pinnacle of Vasse Felix.
In 2018 Heavy winter rainfalls recharged soil moisture levels, ideal for our dry grown vines. A modest spring enabled moderate crop levels, and while the growing season felt cool, it was in fact warmer across daytime average temperatures in the lead up to harvest. There was a “mega blossom” of the Marri trees - the most blossom in living memory – keeping bird pressure to almost zero. Vintage timing was on average, with minor rainfall freshening red vines for the finish. A long, dry, warm Indian summer followed, with no heat spike events. One of, if not the best, Cabernet Sauvignon vintages of the decade, with ultra-fine, perfectly ripe tannins, moderate sugars and good natural acidity. Vibrant colours. Complex and lifted aromas.
WINEMAKERS NOTES: What a stunning vintage. The vines loved what the season delivered, and our role was help translate their experience to the bottle, via 18 months in our best vessels, with much devotion and care. The small sections of Tom’s old blocks were hand-harvested and destemmed only, without crushing, and then fermented with their natural yeast. The Cabernet parcels were static fermented, gently pumped over through a splash tub, and then left on skins for up to 33 days to stabilise and make structurally sound in an exceptional ripening year with quality tannins. The Petit Verdot, Malbec and some Cabernet Sauvignon were open fermented, hand-plunged and pressed dry. All basket pressed only to fine French oak and matured for 18 months.
Very promising quality with the most bullish commentators declaring 2018 great in every region and for every variety. The more circumspect view is that early frosts reduced yields, but good, consistent weather throughout the second half of the growing season did indeed result in great potential.
2018 Barossa vintage one to savour
Barossa 2018 vintage wrapped up at the end of April 2018, with grape growers and winemakers happy with a high-quality vintage and good yields.
“Flavours and colours in reds are wonderful, and natural acids in the Eden Valley whites surprisingly high, with early standout varieties this year including Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet”, said Yalumba head of winemaking Louisa Rose.
The growing season started off well, with Winter 2017 rainfall around 10% higher than average. However, Spring rainfall was only 78% of average in Barossa Valley (BV) and 98% in Eden Valley (EV), and December rainfall was only 57% of average in BV (88% in EV).
Drier soils, combined with warmer than average October and November days (October 2ºC above average in BV (1.8 ºC in EV) and November 1.1ºC above average in BV (1.6 ºC in EV), meant the vine canopies grew quickly; flowering well and setting a good number of bunches.
January and February were warm and dry, with very warm temperatures in February slowing down the pace of ripening. January was slightly above average (1.4ºC during the day but closer to average at night) and February was about average during the day, but with significantly warmer than average night time temperatures in Barossa Valley (5.8ºC warmer).
With summer rainfall 50% of average, growers with access to water, soil moisture monitoring, good irrigation management and healthy soils experienced less stress – and subsequently delivered sound fruit and consistent yields.
The Indian summer of March and early April was ‘the icing on the cake’, with average temperatures, without extremes, perfect for finishing off vintage. The 28-30mm of rain on 14/15 April did not cause any major problems for picking – and was a welcome post-harvest watering for most Barossa growers.
Overall, in 2018, Barossa Valley crushed 56,970 tonnes*, down 22% from the 2017 vintage but 9% above the five-year average. In 2018, Eden Valley crushed 11,593 tonnes*, down 3% from 2017.
The total Barossa crush of 68,563 tonnes* contributed 9% of the total volume and 25% of the total value of the South Australian crush.
Average prices for Barossa Valley varieties remained steady in 2018, with Shiraz at $2252 per tonne 1% down on last year. In Eden Valley, the average price for Shiraz increased 11% to $2636 per tonne and Cabernet Sauvignon increased 15% to $2354.
*Wine Australia estimates the SA Winegrape crush response rate is 85%, so the actual total Barossa crush is estimated at 75,000 to 80,000 tonnes.