The 2017 Hunter wine vintage is done and dusted ... and it's a good'un all right. The question is how good.
Worst case scenario: strong, definitely better than average.
Best case scenario: A real cracker.
I went to two of the leading winemakers in the region for their views - best mates Andrew Thomas of Thomas Wines and Mike De Iuliis of De Iuliis Wines, who see it slightly differently.
Thomas was the more optimistic. "It's a beauty, but not as good as 2014," he said. "In ‘14 we had even ripening, but this time around we had those repetitive, significant heat spikes. Having said that, I'll take heat over rain any time.
"In the whites my semillon fruit is fantastic. Because it was dry we had no pressure from disease or mould, so I could pick purely on fruit ripeness.
"I think you'll find some of the younger vineyards around the valley might struggle because of the heat, but the better, more established sites will handle it and I think you'll get some superb wines."
And the shiraz?
"The colour is amazing, the concentration of flavour is amazing. I'm really pleased. But it's a dry vintage for sure, with bold flavours. Probably more similar to 2007 and 1998 - top vintages but dry.”
Interestingly enough, Thomas has long held the belief that Hunter Valley vines, because of the unpredictable nature of the weather, are tougher, more hardened against difficult conditions than vines from most other regions.
“I firmly believe our vines have adapted over time and produce good fruit even in tough seasons – when vines in other areas would give up the ghost.”
But back to 2017. De Iuliis is more cautious, saying the heatwave meant uneven ripening which could have an impact.
"It's definitely good, and I'm really excited by my chardonnay fruit - it's the best in a few years - but there's no doubt the vines were smacked by the heat.
"It means we're going to get a riper, bigger style of wine. I think overall yields were down a bit, nothing major, maybe 10 or 15 per cent down. My shiraz has some awesome colour and flavour, though.
"My semillon is aromatic and will be good drinking as a young wine, but I'm not sure it will be a classic as such - although people like Tyrrells will make some beauties, you can be sure.”
Interestingly enough, two of the wines De Iuliis is most excited by are his foreign brigade - Touriga Nacionale in the reds and fiano in the whites. "Touriga is a Portuguese variety and it handles the heat so well," he said. "It looks amazing. And the fiano (southern Italy) is good too."
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