2017 in Orange, the Wine Year in Review

Summer is in full swing, in fact if the warm weather continues we will be having an early harvest.  Veraison, when the grapes change colour and begin the serious business of ripening, is underway. So it seems a good time to review the Wine Year 2017 for the Orange Wine Region. Firstly, the 2017 vintage was good – crops were solid and growers made picking choices around some serious wet weather in March.

On from vintage, June gave us a record dry month. The rest of winter was much the same. As a result many growers got their irrigation systems cranked up in September. Track forward two months and growers were managing super canopy growth – particularly in Shiraz and trying to manage vineyards between rain days and unpredictable storms.

One of the continuing trends of 2017 was the growth of sparkling wines from the Region. The new See Saw Prosecco has been a hit - fresh, easy, delish. And at the more serious end from De Salis and Printhie’s Swift range, Orange is doing some very good fizz. Even our own humble offering, Strawhouse The Fizz Pig is finding strong interest. The Swift 2011 Rosé, which topped a strong class at the 2017 Orange Wine Show, is a standout. Other local examples worth seeking out include Ross Hill and Philip Shaw.

At Strawhouse we can’t go many weeks without seeking out a classic Orange Chardonnay. It is a great match for richer seafood or poultry dishes. There is an abundance of local riches with wines from Rowlee, Brokenwood, Tamburlaine, Swinging Bridge (Mrs Payten) and Philip Shaw all getting Golds at the 2017 Orange Wine Show. We pulled out a 2005 Canobolas-Smith Shine the other day, a wine that at 12 years is drinking very well indeed.

Rosé is making a quality home in Orange and the style is starting to find a place on our table. Rosé can be made from a wide range of different varieties and cool climate Pinot Noir makes a very attractive style. I can recommend Colmar, See Saw and the new and interesting #004 from Tom Ward at Swinging Bridge.

Pinot Noir performs best at altitude and with winemakers using clonal variety, whole bunch fermentation and other techniques the wines are high class. Try one of the new players – Rowlee or Slow Wine Co and keep an eye out for Will Rikard-Bell’s new brand Rikard. Having said that Philip Shaw The Wire Walker and See Saw both have very good Pinots around the $20 mark.

Cabernet Franc has been touted as the next big thing elsewhere in the country but I think the Orange Region has a bit of a secret weapon here. I tasted the 2014 De Salis F just the other day and was blown away – high grown so a fine and elegant wine yet plush and delicious. This wine and some of the stuff that Philip & Dan Shaw, Phil Kerney at Ross Hill and, of course, Murray Smith have been doing are excellent. Cheers Justin

A version of this article first appeared in the Central Western Daily in December 2017.