Great wine is made in the vineyard, and growing grapes is a form of farming. So if you are a serious winemaker you are really a farmer too. Growing up in an English country village, I was never a stranger to the seasons, but becoming a farmer required a real change of mindset. The weather report has now become the only thing that really matters on the evening news and what I see out of the window in the morning doesn't just dictate what I'll wear, but also what I'll do that day. Most challenging can be the thoughtless things people say. Last week a smiling bank-teller greeted me with a chirpy "Lovely drop of rain eh?!" when I hadn't slept all night because the drumming on the roof signaled possible split and rot in the nearly-ripe grapes...

There seems to be no end to the ways in which nature can make life difficult for the grapegrower. Rain in winter calls pruning to a halt and frost in spring can ruin a whole year before the vines have really got started. Heavy rain or wind at flowering will reduce the crop. Don't even think about hail! Various diseases and pests can strike through summer if it is too wet or too warm or too humid or too just about anything. Even bushfires, as if they didn't already have enough capacity for tragedy, imprint their smell in the fruit and wine to make for an especially bitter harvest.

So why do we do it? Because, surprisingly often, nature looks after us and we get a Goldilocks year with no late frosts, gentle spring rains, moderate temperatures and soft breezes. 2009 to 2010 was one such fairy-tale growing season and we are hugely excited at the prospect of making some really spectacular wines. However, the ball was very nearly gatecrashed by a wicked witch, the remnants of a tropical cyclone called Olga. Working her way down from Queensland she dumped enormous quantities of rain across New South Wales and parts South Australia and Victoria. It was wonderful for some farmers and the parched river systems, but proved the destruction of a year's work for many grapegrowers across several states. Somehow we managed to miss the worst of the storms and damage has been minimal here in Rutherglen. So at the time of writing, all is set for a fantastic vintage.