By Andy Young
Despite the threat from January's bushfires, Adelaide Hills grape growers and winemakers are celebrating, what they believe is the best vintage in 10 years.
Although some media reports have highlighted problems with smoke taint in the region, that problem has hit a very small part of the Adelaide Hills. Across the region the first white and red wines are reportedly "showing the colours and flavours that only come after a long, dry summer and autumn".
"The usual challenge we have in the Hills is summer or autumn rain which can cause problems at harvest," Chairman of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region Tom Keelan said.
"But this year it has been perfect. Warm days and cool nights and no rain means that we were finished by the end of March and the quality and yields are excellent.
"Everyone is saying it is the best vintage of the last decade because of that dry ripening period. Our cooler climate in the Hills meant the grapes had enough time to develop and we are seeing incredible reds and whites."
Keelan was also sympathetic to the growers in the northern part of the Hills who were threatened by fire and the small areas of vineyard affected by smoke.
"We all know the risks, that at anytime Mother Nature can deal us out of the hand and our hearts go out to that small group of growers who have worked all season to face this uncertainty at harvest," Keelan said.
"Smoke taint is a bit of unknown until the wine is made. Victorian winemakers were hit with a similar problem in 2009.
"The winemaking community in the Hills is very close and we will all make sure we help out our neighbours any way we can. We all know the complexities of growing fruit in our region; it's a region of extremes."
Those extremes are particularly noticeable this year, as a small number of wineries suffer smoke taint problems, others are excited by the prospect for the 2015 vintage.
David LeMire of Shaw and Smith said wine lovers should be looking out for 2015 Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gruner Veltliner later this year.
"They are all stand outs and really represent what we can do in the Hills when the weather is on our side," LeMire said. "We are seeing exquisite quality, flavours and amazing natural acidity in our white wines.
"The Shiraz is also exciting – velvety deep purple fruit that is still fermenting in lots of wineries and is giving off the most amazing aromas. When these come out of barrel in 2016 or 2017 they will among the best reds we have ever produced in the Hills."