By Amy Looker

Cool and wet conditions in New South Wales' Central Ranges have put the region on track for an excellent vintage, though drier conditions are needed to ensure fruit ripens to the optimal level.

Reports from winemakers and grape growers in Mudgee and Orange indicate that fruit quality is outstanding, particularly for the white varietals.

David Lowe, NSW Wine – Central Ranges president, said that after two years of drought the vines are responding well, with good canopies and even growth despite the cooler conditions.

"The season has been delayed due to abundant rain and continual cloud cover, and the weather has been cold," Lowe said.

"Early indications are that it will be an outstanding white wine year, and for the reds to measure up, we need sunshine and dry benign weather."

Robert Stein Wines' winemaker and viticulturalist, Jacob Stein, said Mudgee enjoyed some warm, dry and sunny days after Christmas, which left the Chardonnay, Riesling and Shiraz in top condition.

"But we've had a few inches of rain this last week, which is causing some concern. The cooler temperatures are delaying fruit ripening, but it's not causing much disease pressure as yet. Obviously, we'd prefer not to have the delay in ripening, but it's not completely detrimental to some sites, particularly the higher altitude sites where the fruit copes well," Stein said.

"The red varietals really like the cooler temperatures we've had this summer, and the aromatic whites, Riesling, will always thrive in these conditions. Shiraz, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Riesling are all shaping up to be outstanding."

Ben Crossing from Orange's Angullong Wines also named Shiraz as one of the top varietals to come out of this year's harvest.

"Most of the vineyards are looking very clean with minimal disease. The crop appears to be slightly down on average, particularly the Shiraz, with the quality very good at this stage," Crossing said.

Tom Ward from Swinging Bridge Wines said his Canowindra vineyards experienced its coolest summer in 50 years which has helped to contribute to outstanding quality in the red fruit.

"The Shiraz looks exceptional, especially for those that have worked hard in the vineyard. We're seeing amazing acid balance this year and hoping for some warm weather to finish the vintage."

The Shout Team

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