Clare Valley Vintage Reports
Explore the vintages of Clare Valley wines with our collection of reports spanning more than two decades.
These vintage reports provide a glimpse into the ever-changing climatic conditions and their profound impact on the wines produced in the Clare Valley. From the challenges faced in the vineyards to the unique characteristics that define each vintage, these vintage reports offer a deeper appreciation for the artistry and resilience of the winemakers as they navigate the nuances of nature, ultimately crafting wines that showcase the true essence of the region in any given year.
Success in 2023 came down to vigilant crop management and weather observation. The previous winter-spring was the wettest since 2016, causing a delayed budburst and slower growth in spring. Flowering took place in early December, setting the stage for a March harvest. Despite challenges like above-average moisture and minor hail storms increasing the risk of disease, minimal rainfall from Christmas to March ensured a stellar Riesling crop. These wines displayed exceptional flavour maturity and balanced acidity.
Rainfall in April hampered red grape harvests, increasing susceptibility to late-season diseases like Botrytis. Still, strategic crop management allowed winemakers to focus on superior fruit lots, especially Cabernet Sauvignon. The extended ripening period imbued the reds with intricate flavours and an elegant style, reinforcing Clare Valley’s reputation for quality wines.
The 2022 vintage in Clare Valley showcased consistently high quality across red and white varieties, accompanied by strong yields. Cool and dry weather during summer and early autumn provided ideal ripening conditions, resulting in fruit with excellent natural acidity and full varietal flavours. Winemakers are particularly excited about the exceptional quality of Riesling, coinciding with the region’s celebration of the 21st anniversary of the screw cap closure, pioneered in Clare Valley. Red varieties, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, also displayed a remarkable combination of quality and yield not seen in recent years.
The season began with a dry and cool autumn, followed by good winter rains and above-average spring rainfall, ensuring sufficient soil moisture during the growing season. While a cool spring and summer caused a delayed start to the vintage, it allowed for optimal flavour ripeness before harvesting, avoiding capacity constraints. Some isolated frost damage and poor fruit set occurred, but the region was fortunate to escape fire and hail damage.
The 2021 vintage in Clare Valley was marked by cool and dry conditions, resulting in solid yields and fruit with excellent varietal character and acidity. Adequate rainfall during late winter and early spring supported even budburst and canopy growth, mitigating frost damage. However, the remainder of the growing season experienced below-average rainfall. Flowering in November was successful, leading to higher-than-expected bunch and berry sizes in most varieties. While Riesling yields were lower due to smaller bunch and berry sizes, red varieties saw significant rebound in yields compared to the drought years, especially Cabernet Sauvignon. Disease pressure remained low, requiring minimal spraying. Despite challenges in staffing and accommodations, wineries managed with spread-out operations. The 2021 vintage shows great promise for Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Riesling, with winemakers pleased with their quality and expression of terroir.
The 2020 vintage in the Clare Valley presented challenges due to below-average winter rainfall and dry conditions throughout the growing season. However, Riesling once again displayed its resilience, maintaining good yields despite the tough environment. Spring recorded lower-than-average rainfall, necessitating irrigation to meet the vines’ water requirements. High maximum temperatures in spring and a hot day in November affected fruit set and resulted in an extremely low-yielding harvest. Riesling yields were down only 15-30%, while red varieties like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon experienced lower yields of 40-80%. Milder temperatures in the New Year provided ideal ripening conditions for flavour development. The Clare Valley was fortunate to avoid fires, and the region’s wines, particularly the flavourful whites and intense reds, showcased sub-regional character. Despite the lower yields, good vine health and canopy management led to excellent quality fruit. Vintage progressed smoothly, with the bulk of the harvest completed by the end of March.
The 2019 vintage in the Clare Valley showcased the region’s resilience in the face of drought conditions, resulting in lower yields but high-quality fruit. Winter and spring saw lower rainfall, leading to smaller canopies and berries, which enhanced the quality of Shiraz, Riesling, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Frost and hail events caused yield losses in some vineyards, but overall estimates suggest limited reductions of 30-40% in well-managed vineyards. Despite extreme weather conditions, including record-low spring temperatures and record-high summer temperatures, the grapes displayed resilience. Whites retained good acidity, while reds exhibited excellent colour and varietal intensity. Riesling stood out with yields only slightly lower than expected, highlighting its resilience. Red varieties like Sangiovese, Grenache, Merlot, and Mourvedre showed good yields and quality, with strong colours. Though Shiraz and Cabernet yields were more affected, the quality remained strong.
The 2018 vintage in the Clare Valley began in early February, earlier than the previous year, due to the dry growing season. Despite a lack of significant spring frost, the region experienced well-below-average rainfall throughout the growing season, resulting in lower soil moisture levels. Warm ambient temperatures and occasional extreme heat caused concerns of leaf loss and sunburn. Disease pressure was minimal, but water usage was high, impacting vineyards with limited water resources. Yields were expected to be 10-15% lower than the previous year. Riesling stood out as the exceptional white variety, showcasing its resilience with good yields and overall high quality. Other varieties like Malbec, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and Mourvedre also displayed promising potential. The 2018 vintage in the Clare Valley demonstrated the challenges of the dry season but still delivered wines of very good to excellent quality.
The 2017 vintage in the Clare Valley had a late start, beginning in late February and fully underway in early to mid-March. It was the latest start to vintage since 2011. The growing season was delayed due to a wet and cold winter, with budburst occurring up to a month later than in recent years. Severe storms in September dumped over 120mm of rain across the region, leading to waterlogged soil and low soil temperatures. Some spring frost damage was reported in certain parts of the region. However, favourable weather conditions during flowering resulted in good fruit set across all varieties. The year 2016 recorded high rainfall totals, making it the wettest calendar year since 2000. Damp and humid conditions persisted throughout the early to mid-part of the growing season, and the calendar year ended with another significant storm and rain event between Christmas and New Year. The vintage eventually concluded slowly in early May, although some late harvest/botrytis-style white parcels weren’t harvested until mid-May. Overall, 2017 was an above average vintage in terms of production, with fruit quality ranging from good to very good. Riesling stood out as the standout white variety, and the Cabernets and other late alternative red varieties also shone.
The 2016 vintage in the Clare Valley benefited from a good growing season following a successful previous year. Winter 2015 was cold initially, but late rains in August accompanied by milder conditions allowed vines to store extra nutrients. Mild and dry early spring led to early bud burst and rapid vine growth, tracking ahead of a normal season. Flowering was mostly complete by November, aided by good post-flowering rains and the absence of spring frost. The period between November and January was dry, increasing water consumption and causing some vineyards to struggle. However, timely rainfall in late January and early February relieved stress and slowed down ripening, allowing for optimal harvest of vineyard parcels. The overall quality of Shiraz and Riesling is outstanding, and the crush saw a 25% increase compared to the previous year, with solid fruit quantities across all varieties.
The Clare Valley 2015 vintage ended on a high note, after an almost ideal growing season with above-average winter rainfall and a trouble-free spring, barring some isolated frost damage. A mild early summer followed by a hot February led to an early start to the harvest, about 2-3 weeks ahead of the norm. The resultant wines are demonstrating fantastic varietal definition with great flavour, structure, and excellent natural acidity, hinting at longevity potential. The compact nature of the vintage, particularly in February, required prioritization, leaving some growers with unsold fruit. However, the generally mild conditions helped maintain fruit quality. Yields were at least average, with Riesling and Shiraz demonstrating resilience in terms of productivity. Riesling quality was generally top-notch, much to the satisfaction of wine producers. This vintage is set to be remembered as one of the Clare Valley’s best in the last decade, marking the fourth successful year since the challenging 2011 season.
The 2014 Clare Valley vintage commenced following above-average winter rains and mild spring conditions, producing a good even bud-burst in late September. A cool period in mid-November extended flowering, leading to variable fruit set and berry development in later varieties. Early 2014 saw periods of extreme heat which led to early veraison and the start of vintage in February. A significant rain event mid-February provided relief to water-stressed red varieties and created ideal ripening conditions, with minimal impact on wine quality. Yields were generally average or slightly below, with Shiraz and Riesling producing solid crops, and Cabernet Sauvignon yielding below average but excellent fruit later in the season. Despite some effects of heat and rain on early ripening varieties, fruit quality was largely good to excellent. Pest and disease issues were minimal. The 2014 vintage, while slightly below average in production, upholds Clare Valley’s reputation for consistent quality.
The 2013 vintage in Clare Valley experienced some of the driest conditions ever seen, which led to smaller, open canopies and a compact, early harvest starting in the first week of February. Despite the dryness, mild temperatures and 50mm of rain in early December positively impacted yield. Disease pressure was virtually non-existent due to dry conditions, although frost and isolated hail events did lead to significant crop losses. Estimated yields were slightly down on average; Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache fared well, with winemakers suggesting excellent quality and flavour intensity, particularly in reds. Shiraz yields varied significantly and were generally lower than average. Overall, despite some Riesling not being harvested, the 2013 vintage is regarded as solid, with very strong overall quality.
The 2012 vintage in Clare Valley began with mild growing conditions and regular spring rains which encouraged good canopy growth. Budburst was early, leading to an early harvest that started in mid to late February, concluding by early April. Mild conditions also resulted in fungal disease pressure, though vigilant crop protection minimized fruit rejection. Two hail events caused substantial crop loss in some regions. Yields were generally light compared to long-term averages, with Riesling and Merlot being exceptions, showing average to above-average yields. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon yields varied significantly, with overall yields lower than average. Despite this, early indications from winemakers suggest the quality of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and particularly Riesling, is outstanding due to the mild growing conditions. These varieties showcased intense colour and excellent flavour development, with white wine quality, specifically Riesling, reported as consistently good across the region.
The 2011 Clare Valley vintage saw above-average rainfall throughout the growing season, creating optimal growing conditions but also disease pressure. A series of thunderstorms from November to January, and during harvest, as well as cooler conditions, delayed the ripening, especially in late varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. Harvest started in the first week of March and lasted until May due to the mild conditions. Downy and powdery mildew, as well as botrytis, appeared in some areas, affecting up to 40% of the vines, and higher than average yields might have contributed to these issues. Notably, this had a negative impact on the late-picked Riesling, Shiraz, and some Cabernet. However, 80% of Riesling was harvested before early rains, and initial quality appears to be exceptional. Despite disease issues, there were still some good parcels of Shiraz, particularly in northern Clare, while Cabernet Sauvignon quality varied.
The 2010 Clare Valley vintage was marked by contrasts. Following favourable winter rains, early warmth in spring was disrupted by an unexpected late September cold snap, slowing the development of late varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. An unusually hot November hastened flowering but led to poor fruit set in varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. December was marked by dewy mornings, creating favourable conditions for powdery mildew and Light Brown Apple Moth, causing some damage, especially in Riesling. Despite these challenges, January and February offered good ripening conditions. Harvest began in early February and unfolded steadily. While yields were low in varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, the quality remained decent. Shiraz and Riesling performed exceptionally, leading to the conclusion that 2010 was a vintage of both trials and triumphs.
The 2009 vintage in the Clare Valley was characterised by a near perfect combination of climate and weather conditions. The growing season started with high soil moisture levels due to rains in August 2008, leading to strong initial vine growth. Timely rain in early December was beneficial for flowering and crop level estimation, which predicted average yields. A heatwave in late January caused vines to temporarily shut down, with strong canopies protecting the fruit. Fortunately, this was followed by ideal ripening conditions featuring mild days and cool nights. This allowed for even veraison and moderate sugar accumulation in the berries, with the overall season being the coolest since 2005. Harvesting was unhurried, beginning in late February and concluding in May. The wines from this vintage displayed vibrant fruit flavours, with Riesling performing exceptionally well. Notably, Cabernet Sauvignon was the standout variety, benefiting from the prolonged mild conditions that allowed it ample time for flavour development.
The 2008 vintage in the Clare Valley faced significant challenges, mainly due to limited rainfall. Despite this, the timing of rainfall was fortuitous, with wet conditions in March and April 2007 preparing the vines for winter, and well-timed rains in July, November, and December offering critical support during budburst, flowering, and the ripening period. Despite scarce water availability, strong vegetative growth was observed in Riesling, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz also maintaining adequate canopies for ripening. Cool conditions in February permitted excellent flavour development and acid retention across all varieties. However, an unprecedented heatwave in early March tested the resilience of the vines, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, with most of the fruit still on the vines. Overall, the vintage was both early and brief, with the majority of fruit harvested by mid-March.
The 2007 vintage in the Clare Valley was marked by dramatic seasonal influences, making it a memorable year for the region. It was one of the warmest, driest seasons on record, punctuated by an unusual frost event. Despite the warmth, temperatures remained consistently warm rather than excessively hot, permitting the development of full, fresh flavours while maintaining natural acid structures in the grapes. An unusual rainfall event in mid-January proved beneficial for many vineyards, helping to maintain grapevine canopies for optimal flavour and structural development. However, drought, frost, and cool, windy conditions during flowering led to significant yield variations. Riesling fared the best, with yields around 20% below average, while Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz saw yields 50% to 70% down. Despite the early start and low yields, winery logistics were relatively manageable, with the primary challenge being reliable yield prediction.
The 2006 vintage in the Clare Valley was marked by favourable conditions throughout the growing season and a compressed vintage period with most fruit harvested by the end of March. Good winter and spring rains led to a healthy start for the vines. A hotter than average January was followed by a mild February, providing ideal ripening conditions. A small amount of rain late in February caused some splitting of Riesling in scattered areas of the Clare Valley, but many vineyards were unaffected. March brought warm temperatures and more rain, which had little impact on remaining fruit. The picking sequence was unusual, with some Cabernet Sauvignon harvested before Shiraz and a significant overlap of white and red varieties. Despite the challenges, the 2006 vintage upheld Clare Valley’s reputation for consistency, producing high-quality fruit with wines showing significant potential.
The 2005 vintage in the Clare Valley is regarded as one of the finest in the past decade. After an unusually warm October, the season produced near-perfect conditions with below-average temperatures in January and February, followed by a warm, dry autumn. The vintage had only one day in summer over the old century mark. Despite minor damage from a November frost event and February hail, vintage proceeded smoothly and rapidly once started. Unusual ripening order led to logistical issues, with some wineries having their most compact and intense vintage yet. White varieties, particularly Riesling, had above-average yields with excellent varietal purity and high natural acid levels. The reds, especially Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, were among the best in years, although Cabernet yields were lower than usual. The ideal conditions of the season are reflected in the high quality of the wines.
The 2004 Clare Valley vintage was challenging but ultimately successful, with some excellent wines, including standout Cabernet Sauvignon. The season saw dramatic weather swings; lower than average rainfall from October through the end of vintage, a warmer than average November, the hottest December in a while, and an uncharacteristically cool January. In early February, the vineyards were in great condition, only to be hit by a 16-day heatwave with an average maximum temperature of 37.9°C. Vintage commenced early with large portions of Chardonnay and Semillon harvested by end February, followed by a long, drawn-out vintage. The resilient Riesling vines weathered the extreme conditions with minimal sunburn loss. The result was above-average yields and wines with full flavours and good concentration. Cabernet Sauvignon stood out, offering ripe tannin structure, good varietal character, and excellent colour, although some vineyards saw diminished yields due to bunch stem necrosis likely caused by heat and lack of moisture.
The 2003 Clare Valley vintage turned out to be good, despite drought, late-September frost, and late-February rain. Riesling shone particularly brightly, highlighting Clare Valley’s aptitude for high-quality Riesling production. Despite generally low yields, Riesling was the outlier for many growers. The vintage began early, but heavy rain in late February caused widespread splitting of Shiraz and Semillon grapes, though Riesling was less affected. Disease pressure was low until the rain, which, on balance, was beneficial – it provided necessary juice and balanced the juice-to-solids ratio without diluting the wines. Reds, especially Shiraz, exhibited intense colour and high quality. Positive remarks were made about Merlot, and there were reports of excellent Cabernet Sauvignon parcels. Due to lower yields, the vintage was shorter than usual, with most wineries finishing by Easter. Despite the lower yields, many high-quality wines were produced, with Riesling and Shiraz standing out.
The 2002 vintage in Clare Valley was a study in climatic contrasts, beginning with a wet winter, followed by a cool spring and summer, and concluding with a warm, dry autumn. This weather cycle enabled the fruit to ripen perfectly, creating impressive flavours. Despite a cool summer, overall heat degree was high, thanks to the warm autumn. Yields for some varieties, including Malbec, Merlot, and Riesling, were impacted due to challenging conditions at flowering. The harvested fruit was in top condition, with higher sugar levels, excellent natural acidity, and splendid flavours. The red varieties, in particular, displayed rich colours, and while the whites had a balanced ripening process, reds developed flavours later, leading to some higher alcohol wines. Early signs suggest the 2002 vintage could be one of Clare Valley’s finest, a testament to the resilience of the vineyards and the skill of the winemakers.
The 2001 vintage in Clare Valley was positively received, leading to both satisfaction and anticipation for the wines produced. Yields were above the previous year and on par with district averages. Riesling and Shiraz were standout varieties, producing exceptionally high-quality wines, with many reports also praising Cabernet Sauvignon and Semillon. The vintage started early for most wineries, making for a busy, extended period. Despite a year of lower acidity and higher pH levels, the desired wine specifications were generally met. Intense heat in January and February was well managed due to previous good rainfall and effective irrigation. This vintage’s unique feature was the unusual ripening order, causing some logistical challenges. Riesling showed resilience against harsh weather, resulting in intensely flavourful and aromatic wines. Red varieties also fared well, showing deep colour, rich flavours, and mature tannins. The positive correlation between quality and lower yields was notable for Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 2000, Clare Valley’s wine season started with an unusually dry winter and transitioned into a sizzling spring, peaking at a blistering 40°C in November. While these conditions resulted in a smaller than usual harvest, the year was a testament to quality truly triumphing over quantity. Our resilient Riesling was the star, bravely weathering the heat, while the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, despite facing tougher conditions, developed their unique characteristics. A gentler start to the New Year allowed the grapes to ripen beautifully, resulting in an array of intricate flavours. This challenging year underscored the value of meticulous vine care, yielding superb quality fruit. Despite the obstacles, the 2000 vintage from Clare Valley offered a unique and rewarding tasting experience.
The 1999 vintage in Clare Valley presented challenges, but winemakers remained optimistic about the quality of wines and juices. Red wines were particularly praised, with many winemakers comparing them favourably to the excellent 1998 reds. The reds displayed remarkable colour, excellent flavours, and tannins. White wines, especially Riesling, received positive comments, although there was some variation of opinion. The onset of rain and botrytis outbreak led to earlier picking, helping to avoid significant problems. Some vineyards experienced good botrytis infections in Riesling and Semillon, resulting in high-quality dessert wines being made. Overall, tonnages were lower than in 1998, but there were variations, with some varieties even showing increased yields. Disease-related losses were minimal, with lower tonnages primarily attributed to the early dryness of the season. Rain was generally seen as beneficial for the reds, and vineyards with good viticultural practices and moderate crops encountered few issues.
The 1998 vintage in the Clare Valley began with the driest July since 1982, but improved conditions followed. August and September brought much-needed run-off, restoring soil moisture and dams to normal levels. In October, the region experienced dry weather until the end when 111 mm of rain fell, surpassing the long-term average. Vineyard managers were pleased with the start of the season, describing it as a very good year with exceptional early season growth. Clare Valley received timely rain throughout the summer, except for a dry January, and the harvest took place under ideal and mild March weather. The Rieslings exhibited bold and full flavours, though they may have lacked delicacy, offering lime and apple fruit characteristics suitable for shorter-term enjoyment. Semillon was also successful, but Chardonnay disappointed. Among the reds, Shiraz stood out as the highlight. Young vines produced high-quality fruit for the reds, displaying rich colours and abundant natural tannins. While Riesling performed well initially, warmer weather later in the season resulted in some fruit being burned, leading to a slightly lower quality.
The 1997 vintage in the Clare Valley was widely acclaimed as a top year. The overall yield was down by about 15%, varying within the valley and by grape variety, due to a relatively dry spring and summer, along with a hot February. However, a rainfall of 30-40 mm on February 6 provided relief. The hot weather slowed down ripening but benefited quality, with minimal disease problems. Rieslings showcased extraordinary long and full flavours with good natural acidity, while Chardonnay and Semillon were rich and full-flavoured. The deeply coloured red wines exhibited rich and robust flavours, characteristic of the region. They may require longer maturation. Vineyards received beneficial rainfall in early February, sustaining the vines through high temperatures. Mild conditions from late February to early March extended the ripening period, resulting in fruit with good varietal characters and flavour. Yields were slightly below average, but certain vineyards, particularly dryland Shiraz, performed extremely well. The quality of Riesling improved significantly, displaying intensity, fine structure, and soft acidity. The red wines, especially Shiraz, were elegant with typical Clare Valley characteristics, and Cabernet Sauvignon showcased lifted spicy aromas.
The 1996 vintage in the Clare Valley was exceptionally favourable, with increased yields reported by wineries compared to the previous year. This vintage was reminiscent of 1992, following a series of challenging years due to adverse weather conditions. Good winter rains, ample summer rainfall, and a relatively cool period leading up to harvest contributed to the success of the 1996 vintage. The red wines from this vintage exhibited deep red/purple hues and were anticipated to be rich, robust, and flavoursome. Additionally, the vintage was expected to have produced highly aromatic Rieslings and strong varietal flavours.