“My most memorable moments of vintage probably come from when I was younger.”
“Running up and down the stairs, controlling the hopper, the crusher, the weigh bridge, the fermenters all on my own, that was pretty wild! I definitely learned how to multi-task.”
Chester Osborn has come a long way since running amuck between the barrels in the d’Arenberg cellar.
Appointed chief winemaker in 1984, he has brought us some of the most memorable wines in the winery’s history – famous for their mouth-watering taste and equally exciting names.
With his 35th vintage now in full swing, Chester still has a healthy appetite for winemaking and what the new year can bring.
“Vintage is a whole batch of wines being made,” he said.
“It’s exciting seeing the flavours developing in the vineyard, picking them, seeing what they’re looking like in the winery, it’s exciting. It’s an opportunity to make many more great wines again!”
Vintage at McLaren Vale kicked off in February and it been anything but smooth sailing.
Little rainfall and “one very hot day” has presented a few roadblocks for the d’Arenberg team to overcome.
“In the lead up to Vintage 2019, we had a dry winter, fairly dry spring, but the vines survived well enough. It was very windy during flowering for Shiraz which unfortunately impacted the crop levels,” Chester said.
“We had one very hot day, which also took a beating on the vines which reduced the crop by about 20% (berry size). Our Shiraz crop was impacted, but other varieties thankfully not too bad.”
“Petit Verdot unfortunately was sun damaged badly, too.”
Despite the challenges faced early on, Chester believes not everything has to go perfectly in order to make a fantastic wine.
“The key to a successful vintage is a lovely winter rain, mild conditions throughout the season. Not too many extremes. Not too much rain in later summer. Nice cool nights,” he said.
“That would be the perfect season, but sometimes we can make some really smart wines without that, there’s no exact science.”
And you can be sure through all the hurdles, Chester will still find the positives and produce another year of outstanding wines.
“Quality looks good at this stage but a little bit early to tell,” he said.
“But I like what I’m seeing out there… It should be a pretty good year.”