Spring 1997

A warm, early spring deteriorated to cold and extremely windy conditions throughout most of the flowering period to late November. November/December was the coolest on record and the growth on exposed vines and sensitive varieties was so stunted by wind that one feared for their welfare. This combination of conditions resulted in an extremely poor fruit set (particularly for the more exposed vineyards) and crop reductions averaging 50% for many sites. The moist summer and cooler than average weather provided much-needed respite, allowing the generation of canopies necessary for proper ripening of the available crop. However, this moisture and humidity persisted through March and early April, raising the spectre of disease problems for the ripening fruit in all but the most carefully managed vineyards. From early April to May conditions were dry, and our fruit was harvested in excellent condition, with some natural berry shrivelling and pronounced, lively varietal flavours. Overall, the latter part of the season and the fruit it produced bore strong similarities to those of the 96 vintage, except that whereas the 96 vintage was slightly warmer than average, this year was a little cooler than the long-term average. In what were otherwise two similar vintages, these conditions might be expected to give a trade-off between slightly stronger varietal statement and elegance for the 97 wines and a little more richness and concentration for the 96 wines.