Ben Cane | 2024 Vintage Notes

2024 Vintage Notes

In what seems to be an ongoing trend, each vintage we have faced presents its own challenges while offering the potential for amazing reward—2024 was no different. 

Creeping Heat

In our limited experience with three vintages (yes, three vintages, it's hard to fathom even for us!), we have yet to witness a predictable set of weather conditions. This one was a bit of a creeper; the heat and dryness really snuck up on us. 

We watched as the Swan and Margaret River regions sustained heat waves that forced vintage to occur at least a full month ahead of last year. Our Chardonnay from Victory Point was picked in January rather than the end of February. It looked rather perfect, though!

Meanwhile, down in the South, we were seduced by cool, misty mornings that lulled us into thinking we wouldn't have to deal with the driest summer in decades. What threw us were warm to hot days in the early summer with intense sunshine and no cooling breezes. This took its toll on fruit exposed on the morning side, giving some dried bunches, which we promptly dropped well before harvest. 

It reminded us of the heat of 2022, where hand-picking allowed us to bring in only the best fruit and leave the rest behind. I had nightmares about the tiny yields of 2023 and felt like, once again, we would have minimal Riesling to go around for our fans. This was compounded by the fact that we had our irrigation pump go down right at Christmas time, and even though we had gotten several good long waterings on the vines, it would be a race to get it up and running before the serious heat spells kicked in. 

After ordering parts from Singapore and having to rework our system to function more effectively and efficiently, we were able to get water to our little grape trees right before the 40C days. This pulled them through, maintaining a good canopy that would help build flavour and aromatics and help the physiological ripeness of tannin and colour.

Riesling

Vines truly are remarkable plants. Never has this been proven to me more than this year! Hearing stories in Margaret River of sugars racing up and tannins staying green, I predicted we would see a similar effect here in the Porongurups. However, due to the cool climate and slower ripening, the grapes' ripeness came into great balance with fully ripe tannins and complex varietal characteristics for each variety. The Riesling was probably the most unusual ripening pattern, as the flavours developed late in the game. Specifically, I was waiting for more intensity in the skin flavours and aromas, and these came towards the end of ripening. However, the wait was certainly worth it, with mouth-filling citrus and floral notes, as well as a gentle beam of acidity that offered freshness yet plumpness in the mouth.

Shiraz

The Shiraz was probably the greatest success story of 2024. My initial feeling was that we would have jammy and tired fruit characters from the intense weather this fruit went through. However, as the vines balanced out in late February and March, the Shiraz bunches had small intense berries with thick dark skins delivering not only lifted purple flower aromatics but intense forest berry flavours with black pepper spice. When we hand-picked the centre of the block for the whole bunch lot, I remember thinking these were some of the most intense yet complex Shiraz berries I had tasted, which was further confirmed when Rob Diletti saw the bunches I brought up from sampling.

Cabernet

The Cabernet from the Duke’s site continues to be a marvel to me and makes me more impressed with the variety every subsequent year I work with it here. The skins are thick and tough, requiring a good amount of time to lose their capsicum-like characteristics, but when they begin to be in the ripeness window, we see all the detail and complexities of what makes Cabernet such an interesting variety. Cassis, bramble, red and black currant, dark chocolate; a saline fine line overlaid with a European licorice overlay that speaks quietly yet firmly of the nearby Southern Ocean. 2024 may give a year of nuance and detail that won't bowl one over with intense power, yet it will seduce with refinement and elegance, with a long aging potential. We harvested by machine, which enabled us to receive bins of marbles, the veritable Cabernet caviar. Whilst we had lower crops and thus less wine, we have another unique and beautiful expression of Bordeaux’s finest. The Houghton clone, once again has delivered tiny berries with intoxicating red floral lift with red currant and cassis purity, surrounded by fine yet complete tannins.

Forging Finesse From Adversity 

Thus, through a year of extremes, many challenging hurdles and delivering a harvest of compact intensity, we see wines of unique beauty and power, delivering detail and complexity that stand very differently from the three previous vintages. The extensive work we have undertaken at pruning time to rejuvenate and revitalise these 25-year-old beauties, plus the intensive hand work throughout the year shoot thinning and crop thinning, has created a well-balanced crop of varietally expressive fruit of complexity and interest, as we continue to farm on the edge. The La Niña year brought heat and dryness but helped to produce tiny berries. With careful selection and harvesting and a dedicated gentle approach in the winery, I believe we will continue our upward trajectory of making statement wines from the Porongurups and Great Southern, forging finesse and refinement from adversity and challenge.