Vintage Report: Mudgee with Robert Stein’s chief winemaker

May 14, 2024
By Cody Profaca

Drinks Trade recently caught up with Jacob Stein, chief winemaker at Robert Stein Wines, to chat about the recently completed vintage.

Drinks Trade: How was vintage ‘24 at Mudgee? 

Jabos Stein: It was good! 

There’s a few different parts to it: We had a pretty good growing season, so it wasn’t much drier than we’ve had in the last few years, well, we had a dry winter (we had to irrigate a lot during winter and early spring to give the vines a really good start to the growing season, and spring was also quite dry, which was okay) but then we got a fair bit of rain during November, which really helped give the vines growth a lot more vigor, and sort of reduced the need for irrigation. So that was a nice bit of relief. 

Summer was quite good, it was quite calm. We had some rain events but normally nice warm sunny days, perfect ripening and it set us up for a really good harvest period which was good. 

DT: How does it compare to recent years?

JS: The growing season was a lot nicer than we’ve had over the last few heavy rainfall seasons: the forecast was supposed to be El Nino and we ended up having a relatively dry growing season and temperatures were very mild to warm and beautiful sunny days.

Harvest started in mid-January which is about two weeks earlier than normal, and once that started it really just didn’t stop and came in very quickly, so it was very short and sharp like early/late January, early Feb was the peak of it. The majority of the fruit was picked within four weeks basically which is very abnormal for us in Mudgee, [with] the normal vintage being about 8 to 12 weeks. So yeah, it came in quite thick and short and fast in a fast period.

DT: Are yields lower/higher?

JS: The only thing was that during October into early November when it was quite dry and was also quite windy and that meant that was during flowering. So that meant that in the end our yields were quite low. They were 20 to 30% lower than average and that was sort of it was quite variable but that was across different varieties at different sites.

DT: How’s grape quality overall?

JS: In the end quality is really good!

The balance of the wines is great, just really bright, fruitful character, excellent colour.

The whites: like really good concentration and the fruit was just in excellent condition so we’ve made some really good white wines… Reds are equally as excellent, they’re sort of great to excellent.

DT: Anything to look out for? Anything to avoid?

JS: So aromatic whites – Riesling, Gewurz, Italian [varietals] like Vermentino – they’re all really good! Excellent quality, beautiful natural acidity… Chardonnay is up there as well.

[For reds], Standouts are probably Shiraz for the French varieties, and in Italians, we’re really strong for Italian and Spanish varieties – so Montepulciano and Barbera – we’re really excited about them this year, they’re probably some of the best batches we’ve ever seen. Really deep purple colour, beautiful natural acidity, beautiful tannin, fruit balance… I’d call them ‘healthy wines,’ they’ve just been behaving so well.

DT: How about disease pressure and pests?

JS: We had to spray a lot less than normal and we could concentrate on just building quality through nutrition and canopy management and yield assessment and really just get back to basics and really try and focus on the fruit quality rather than just chase disease and mildew like we have the last few years. So that was really good. 

And then what rain we did get produced decent rain events in short sharp periods which came and went, so it was sort of ideal for us really because there wasn’t large rain events and it also meant we had good grass growth for the cover crops, 

Kangaroo and birds [pressure] was kept to minimal this year, like bird pressure wasn’t that high.

DT: Has Vintage ‘24 at Robert Stein been fairly reflective of Mudgee overall? 

JS: I think we’re fairly similar to the rest – we fared really well across the board, we had slightly less yield reductions than the rest of the valley, and I suppose that’s because we do have a lot of irrigation water. We’ve got compost and cover crops to ensure that we look after our vines and really healthy soil year round, so I think that’s why we sort of feel like we’ve got a bit of an umbrella up over here.

So we’ve fared fairly well, but I think most of the region fared really well as well, so happy that it’s across the board. 

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