Running Hot and Cold

Wine / Wednesday, February 7th, 2024

So, what happened to the El Niño weather pattern the Bureau promised us/threatened us with?!

And it’s not just me scratching my head.

Climate scientists are also puzzled by the recent above-average rainfall and persistent storms on Australia’s east coast. They seem to completely contradict typical expectations associated with the El Niño climate system.

Despite the declaration of an El Niño, these storms have brought torrential rain and flooding instead of the anticipated warmer and drier conditions.

Experts attribute this anomaly to the complexity of climate dynamics (no kidding – the articles I’ve read so far are starting to hurt my head!). These “experts” note that while El Niño events generally result in drier conditions, other factors such as the Indian Ocean Dipole (I have NO idea what that is) and the Southern Annular Mode (yep, nothing on that one either!) can counteract these effects, leading to increased rainfall.

Additionally, the influence of climate change is evident in the intensification of extreme weather events.

Despite efforts to forecast such events, the unpredictability of large-scale weather systems poses challenges for long-term outlooks.

Do you now what all that says to me? No one knows anything about weather and the more we try to predict it, the more we get it wrong!


What’s your point?

Yes, I am going somewhere! 

Given we’re now at the pointy end of the growing season, we’d all love to see some more sunshine and warm days. Those little berries are desperate to ripen and provide us with some delicious juice we can turn into wine.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening…


Vintage 2024:

Out in the vineyard earliest varieties remain at E-L 35 (that signifies the beginning of veraison). It was two weeks ago that I reported transition to this stage. So, it looks like things are starting to slow down a bit.

On the other end of the spectrum the last of the latest varieties are still hard and green (E-L 33) with no sign of veraison just yet.  

According to last week’s CropWatch report, the earliest of their observed varieties is Pinot Noir at both Lenswood and Woodside with 80% of berries coloured. 


Colour development:

Let’s take a look at how this compares to previous years…


Again, thanks to CropWatch, this little graph compares the percentage colour development in Pinot Gris at Lenswood for the past six seasons with this season.

It’s obvious that cool conditions are slowing berry development.

We’re at least a week behind V18 to V21 inclusive. But approximately 2.5 weeks ahead of last season (remembering that was a particularly late season though). 



This one shows colour development for Shiraz at Macclesfield.

There are no signs of colour there right no, so a bit early to comment. But, this season is already a week behind V18.


The problem is…

Now, I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s being more and more obvious that the prevalence of “hen and chicken” in the vineyard with have a significant influence on winemaker decisions re. harvest dates.

Just a quick reminder for those who missed it:

If the weather is bad during flowering, as it has been this season, it can effect fertilisation and fruit set.

This can result in bunches with small and large grapes, a condition known as Millerandage which is often called “Hen and Chicken”. The big berries have been fertilised and have pips and sugar but the little berries are sour and seedless.

The image (again – thanks CropWatch!) in the middle shows even ripening on both hen and chickens. The image at left shows chickens ahead of hens, and at right a suggestion of the reverse.

And the worst thing? These bunches were found on adjacent vines. Not on opposite sides of the vineyard! It seems like an understatement to say that there is clearly a high degree of variability this season.

As noted previously, budburst had a high incidence but variable timing. This combined with changeable weather during flowering has increased variability in set conditions resulting in wide differences in percentage hen and chickens within vineyards.

In addition, the influence of infrequent warm weather on the ripening rates on differing berry size classes means the normal curve of berry ripeness will have an unusually wide base.


Watch this space for more updates!

4 Replies to “Running Hot and Cold”

  1. “Additionally, the influence of climate change is evident in the intensification of extreme weather events.”

    Do you have any evidence of this? I would love to get access.

  2. Hi John, Thanks for your questions. I got my information for that part of the blog from this article…

    Where it is quoted as saying:
    What is the role of climate change?
    According to the most recent State of the Climate report, there is evidence that storms in Australia are becoming more intense – that is, delivering more rain. This trend is expected to increase as the planet keeps heating up.

    Dr Jaci Brown, of CSIRO’s Climate Science Centre, says one major concern from global heating was the effect of “compounding events” on societies – the times when multiple extremes happen almost simultaneously.

    “We’ve had heatwaves, bushfires and floods happening together [in recent weeks],” she says. “Even if these events are not due to climate change, it is a glimpse of what we should be preparing for in the future.”

    Here is a link to the report if you want to delve further.

    I hope that helps!

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