Well, the 2023/24 growing season kicked off very much like the couple preceding it – cool and wet! However, budburst was earlier, which thankfully meant that the commencement of harvest was also brought forward by a couple of weeks.

A brief window of dry and warm weather over flowering ensured a good fruit set. Which would mean we’d potentially have a great crop if we could get it through to harvest. Fortunately for us, we were spared spring frost (in October) which decimated a number of other lower-lying vineyards in Beechworth. Storms were a regular threat, and we were unlucky to be grazed by a massive cell between Christmas and New Year, damaging berries on the west side of the canopy. Things could have gone either way over the next few weeks, but fortunately things dried out, the damage healed, and by harvest little was to be seen of the New Year storm.

The wet weather kept us on our toes…or should I say on the tractor seats! We were spraying regularly to avoid the onset of disease. We’re pleased to say we got through the season with no downy, or powdery mildew, or botrytis. In some ways the wet weather was a blessing, as we were able to build strong healthy canopies with plenty of leaves for ripening the crop. Chardonnay kicked things off, with the first fruit of the 2024 harvest picked in the last week of February, followed quickly by Pinot Noir. Almost immediately following picking of these varieties, the weather warmed, and the rain stopped allowing harvest of all the red varieties (and Verdicchio) without interruption.

While the last of the Aglianico was picked on the 22nd April, Gros Manseng was still on the vine (we finally picked this on Tuesday, May 28). This allowed us to contemplate whether it will have enough sugar to make our preferred style. We’re very fortunate that bird pressure was low due to the wet season. Which meant there was plenty of alternative food sources available for them, so they kept off the vines.


It’s difficult as pretty much all varieties, across the board, are showing attributes that we believe will ultimately make great wines. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ripened with mild conditions (and without any heat stress), so they’re exhibiting great natural acidity, and an abundance of flavour.


Both Smith Vineyard and the Fighting Gully Road blocks have produced excellent wines with fermentations going through to sugar dryness without a hitch. The ‘newish’ Mendoza clone block at FGR is continuing to produce fruit and wine to vie with Smith’s in terms of flavour, texture, and concentration. Both estate and single vineyard wines from 2024 will be very strong.

Pinot Noir

Probably the one variety that bucked the trend and produced a slightly lower-than-average crop…maybe it’s just vine age! The cool growing season and harvest has produced wines with finesse with slightly less tannin structure than the norm for Pinot Noir at the FGR site. The wines are now being aged in 500L puncheons; the wine will be bottled early in 2025, and its sure to be a great follow on from the recently released 2023 vintage.


A very late budburst followed by the cool and wet growing season meant delayed shoot development, flowering and ultimately – harvest. However, the dry and warm conditions through Autumn were perfect for Verdicchio, producing fruit with more skin colour (and flavour) than we have seen since our first vintage in 2021. Yields were up on the horrendous 2023 vintage, so we will have a little more wine from this year’s harvest than the 2023 – which will be released in the next couple of months.

The reds spent nearly all their time ripening in the ‘ideal’ temperature range (between 17 and 27 degrees), so they’re very deeply coloured, very aromatic, and flavourful. Almost the perfect vintage after the last few.


Is a standout. With new fermentation techniques being trialled using whole bunches (currently used on Pinot Noir and Grenache), we’ve been extremely successful, resulting in highly fragrant wines with supple tannins, and very deep in colour. Its difficult to say whether the wine will be aged for four years before release (as is our standard practice), or whether the soft tannin structure will see us release the wine earlier.


The best yields we have achieved since 2019. A much better budburst than in 2022 and followed by better flowering conditions, resulting in excellent crops in all clones. The dry and warm conditions in late Autumn allowed us to take the later ripening ‘Brunello’ clones right through to full ripeness. This allows us to make a ‘La Longa’ wine for the first time since 2019 (current release)! While we won’t know whether it will go on to be aged for a further year in large oak (to become the next ‘La Longa’), things look very promising at this stage. All the remaining grapes will make an excellent ‘White Label’ Sangiovese with a plush and juicy palate, not unlike what has been made in 2021, 2022, and 2023 (current release).


Our second latest ripening red grape (just prior to Aglianico), has seen the highest natural sugars being produced to date (and the earliest harvest date). With more colour and slightly more tannin than achieved in 2021 – 2023, the wine promises to deliver even more flavour (with perhaps a little less spice) than the preceding cooler vintages. Like the last couple of vintages, it has required significant input in the vineyard: Early shoot thinning; removal of every other inflorescence [flower clusters]; leaf removal on the morning sun side; and additional bunch thinning closer to harvest to remove clusters from shorter shoots (with less leaves = less sugar).


Also a standout this vintage. After considerable work during the growing season to manage the vigorous canopy (remove leaves in the fruit zone, and thin crop), we have produced a wine with almost impenetrable colour and concentration of flavour. Given this early ‘potential’ we fermented the wine with slightly more Viognier skins than previously, but despite this, its hard to see it at all! The by-product Viognier wine (that we normally don’t release) has all the hallmarks of great cool-climate Viognier found in the northern Rhone Valley: Exhibiting aromas of ginger, and spice; and a wine of similar palate weight, and texture. We may well bottle this and produce a very limited release. Keep an eye out for that one.


Always our last red to be harvested – this year it was on 22nd April. Being so late in the season we must wait for the fog to lift in the morning, and the fruit to dry before we commenced picking. Like the other red this year, the wine has a very deep colour, is highly aromatic (which is quite unusual for this red variety), and firm but fine tannins – which will ensure the wines age-ability. Exactly like the characteristics shown of the variety in its home regions in southern Italy.

Image credit (above): Mark Walpole