Every season is different and this one has given us plenty of extremes. A cool spring with below average rainfall was followed by the intense heat in December and the massive disastrous bushfires from one end of the country to the other. Then in January the monsoons returned to the north and we've seen rain and cooler temperatures.
The upshot is a forecast for a below-average crop that should be smoke-free and above average in quality. Given what’s occurred in many wine regions across Australia, we realise we are very fortunate. Having lost our vineyard to fire in 2006, we know the pain and loss those wineries are feeling. It was the generosity and support of fellow wine industry people that got us through. It’s up to all of us to get them going again.
Tom Guthrie, Grampians Estate
There was relatively high rainfall over winter leading into spring in and around Geelong. Frost affected some vineyards in the Moorabool, lowering crop volumes. We had slightly later budburst with good growing conditions throughout spring.
Winds were a factor during flowerings so some poor fruit set, smaller bunches and lower crops through most vineyards. In summer we saw all extremes: 40-plus days, cold temperatures, storms, strong winds and large amounts of water in the space of a few hours.
Overall the vintage showed many challenges for our grape growers – but I’m sure all their hard work will show in the final wines that will come out of this vintage, even though there may not be as much floating around.
Ben Mullen, Mullen Wines
New South Wales
“So fair and foul a day I have not yet seen." - William Shakespeare
This vintage, I believe we won the battle but we lost many grapes due to extreme drought. We had little to no rain during the growing season, our vineyards ran out of water, which equalled a crop reduction by more than 60% across the Hunter Valley. The grapes we harvested had low yields and produced brilliant wines with lots of concentration. Semillon, clean fresh and zesty; chardonnay, fine and complex; shiraz, super intense, lots of colour, sweet tannins and concentrated flavours.
Usher Tinkler, Usher Tinkler Wines
Our various shiraz parcels are presenting themselves as positively as ever. The grapes went through veraison at the usual times, however, bunch weights were lower as a reflection of the dry conditions.
Warm temperatures in early January saw the baumés move quite quickly and harvest was seven days earlier than usual.
Some of the early ripening, lower yielding shiraz is in the winery, with plans to pick the other red varieties shortly.
Our shiraz continues to perform well. With the experience we have with the region, the vineyards and in the winery, we’re continuing to produce a modern style that competes for the best-value shiraz in New South Wales.
Anthony D’Onise, Windowrie Wines
Canberra District, ACT
The southerly breeze is usually our evening friend. Now the smoke rolls ahead of it, blanketing our land. Outside is like being in the smokers’ room at the RSL on Anzac Day. Already the year has thrown frost, drought and extreme heat at us – what’s next?
We decide early that the writing is on the wall and if I’m going to make wine this season, I’ll need to talk to friends from far away to find fruit clear of smoke. So I look up those in the Margaret River and Great Southern regions.
Jo Perry, from Dormilona, finds extra old vine material in the Swan Valley. Small crops of old bush vines are booked in within days and the wonderful people at McHenry Hohnen winery make space. Within a week, we have fruit in, and our story is changing from one of drought, fires, flood and frost to one of our amazing community.
Ryan O’Meara from Express Winemakers, Andrew Hoadley at La Violetta, and Yoko Luscher-Mostert and Andries Mostert at Brave New Wines find even more fruit.
I’m in Sydney while this is all happening so far away, expressing my deep love of these people to my mate Topher Boehm of Wildflower Brewing. He drafts a plan to make our smoky fruit into some of his wild ales (smoke doesn’t affect beer apparently). Again tears are held back so as to not ruin the illusion of my die-hard manliness.
Speaking of manliness, Ricky Evans from Two Tonne Tasmania hears about this and says there's a couple of tonnes of pinot we can have if I can get down there and get my hands dirty; cook him a meal.
Losing a crop is devastating but our wine community came to our rescue and as a result, vintage 2020 will lose some of its bitter, acrid aftertaste.
Bryan Martin, Ravensworth Wines
2020 has been a challenging growing season in the Clare Valley, one of the hottest and driest on record. This, combined with an average fruit set due to windy conditions at flowering, has resulted in another season of lower yields. However, despite quantity being low, the fruit quality is looking good. So all things going well from here, we should see some top-notch vino coming out of the Clare Valley.
Damon Koerner, Koerner Wines
The season began with good winter rainfall, followed by a mild start to spring. Total rainfall was below average, which restrained vigour a little. November was extremely cool and some welcome rain helped canopy growth. However, flowering time was prolonged, which led to some hen and chicken in the shiraz but more notably in the cabernet sauvignon. Grenache handled flowering conditions well and fruit set was excellent.
Summer arrived on 17 December with four days in a row over 40°C. This triggered the end of shoot growth in the vines and they directed all of their energy into berry development. January saw above average rainfall and below average temperatures. This allowed grapevines to gently ease themselves into veraison.
A summer storm system produced some lovely rain in early February. The vines were well into veraison and the rain pumps up the berries a little, which provides flesh and lift fruit flavours. As we enter the final ripening period, nights are cool, which will help retain natural acidity.
Please note McLaren Vale has not suffered any smoke taint issues.
Duncan Kennedy, Kay Brothers
An extraordinarily windy spring saw delayed shoot growth and less-than-optimal flowering. It has resulted in open canopies and lower-than-average yields. This combination results in very good quality fruit. Every month of the growing season to date has had lower-than-average temperatures – except January, which was average. The cooler year, lower yields and open canopies should deliver wines of great intensity and driving acidity.
John Schuts, Derwent Estate