By CAITLIN CROWLEY

GRANITE Belt wine drinkers can expect quality over quantity from the 2022 vintage, after a soggy season which producers are ready to put behind them. 

Near-constant wet weather wreaked havoc on the region’s wine grapes over the summer growing season to the point where some fruit unable to be harvested. 

Martin Cooper owns Ridgemill Estate winery and said the wet and humid conditions made the 2022 vintage a real challenge, with a lot of powdery mildew decimating crops in some areas. 

“A few wineries didn’t pick their red grapes because they just couldn’t ripen them, but those who did, the consensus seems to be pretty good,” he said. 

“The wines that are being made from this year’s vintage across the board seem to be very good quality, so quantity’s down but quality’s really good.”

Martin Cooper with his wet winter vines at Ridgemill Estate

Ian Kraemer from Robert Channon Wines agreed that what was being made this year was looking good. 

“The Verdehlo is looking very nice in particular and a couple of the reserve reds are looking good too,” he said. 

Peter O’Reilly from the Queensland College of Wine Tourism said most people would be glad to see the 2022 vintage gone. 

“It’s been a difficult year,” he said.  “I think the whites looked very good early on. I think there were people who in the end lost reds just because of the difficult conditions, particularly in March.” 

Picking the 2022 vintage at Robert Channon Wines back in February. IMAGE: Robert Channon Wines

The region has received an astonishing 1263mm in the last 12 months, almost five times as much rain as 2019 when just 257mm fell during the drought. 

Last November was the wettest month with 220mm, but December and March weren’t far behind with 170mm and 163mm respectively. 

“The ground water table is an inch above the ground level still,” Martin Cooper said. 

“We haven’t had rain here now for two weeks but it’s just not drying out.

“We’ve been trying to plant another five acres for the last three years and I’ve just cancelled the order for this year because I can’t put tractors on the ground it’s just too wet.” 

Peter O’Reilly also has his own vineyard and said he found it much easier to grow grapes in the drought than in the wet. 

“Even though we’re incredibly sandy soil and you expect the water to soak away quickly, there’s just nowhere for it go,” he said. 

“Some of the things we’ve seen in the last year – people getting machinery stuck and the machine they use to get the first one out gets stuck – the ground is just pudding!” 

Quart Pot Creek in Stanthorpe

Another challenge due to months of grey skies was achieving the necessary Baume – or sugar content in the grapes – desired for winemaking, but Peter O’Reilly believes there was a silver lining. 

“This year was probably a great example of the importance of understanding phenological ripeness and understanding that sometimes, a Baume of 12 is what you’re going to get,” O’Reilly said.

He said it was important to be able to read the phenological signs that say, “this grape is now ripe, deal with it” and in this case, they can be used to make lower alcohol wines which are actually a market trend. 

“Sometimes we need to be reminded to keep up with the market,” O’Reilly said. 

“We are seeing people willing to make wines locally at a lower alcohol and that might be reds at 12 percent instead of 15.” 

The local industry is planning trials harvesting fruit at different Baume to determine the lowest sugar content grapes can be picked at and still produce wine with all the characteristics winemakers want. 

“Rather than letting it hang out there for another four weeks suffering birds and diseases and being sprayed again,”  O’Reilly said. 

“If we can pick things that are market acceptable at 12 Baume, we should be doing that because it makes really good economic sense and it may just be meeting the market as well, for that slightly lower alcohol wine.” 

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