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Impact of drought & fires on Brown Brothers wines

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By Ross Brown

The 2007 vintage started three weeks early and is perhaps the earliest start we have ever experienced. Everything is in full swing with 5000 tonnes of fruit crushed so far, or about 1/3 of our vintage.

The fires that raged through the High Country over the summer months exacerbated what was already a difficult growing season and, as a result, every parcel of fruit from the King Valley, including fruit from our own vineyards, has been tested for the impact of smoke on fruit flavour.

We now have a clear measurement that determines if the fruit can be used for premium wine and, unfortunately, very significant portions of our local fruit appear to be affected by smoke and are being rejected, either to be dropped on the ground or on-sold to wineries that can blend the wine away in large bulk production.

The impact of the drought and frost across the country has also lead to a reduction in overall crop levels – in some cases to about 50% of an average year. Our production from the King Valley represents about 15% of our vintage intake.
This is commercially disappointing for Brown Brothers and will mean some wines from the 2007 vintage will not be produced, or at best will be at significantly reduced volumes.

In order to protect the quality of our wine and the integrity of the wider King Valley ‘brand’, wines grown exclusively in the King Valley will not be produced this year including Patricia Sparkling, Patricia Noble, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Graciano and SMC. However those wines where part of the fruit is grown in the King Valley will be produced but at significantly lower volumes, including Pinot Grigio, Non Vintage and Tempranillo.

There is enormous disappointment and frustration felt by all of us and in particular the vineyard teams who have worked their hearts out, to both grow and save the vineyards from fire, only to see it all in vain. However, we can not forget that this business is still farming based!!

The good news is that the quality of fruit from Heathcote, Mystic Park and the Murray Valley growers is very good, although down in volume. Fortunately, through their strong relationships, Wendy and the winemaking team have been able to secure extra parcels of fruit from the area that will generally make up the shortfall.
In summary we expect to have approximately 85% of our production for 2007 secure with some gaps from our King Valley vineyards. We will be placing extra emphasis on Zibibbo, Moscato, Crouchen Riesling to hopefully claw back some of the lost revenue in the months ahead.

Our job now is to make the best of the most difficult vintage ever. However with revenue results for January and February being above budget, there is good reason to be optimistic for the year ahead.


Written by Greg Naylor

3 March 2007 at 9:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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