Talisman Wines’ vineyards in Geographe, WA.

Victoria

Mornington Peninsula

The saying goes that if you don’t like the weather in Melbourne, wait 10 minutes. Likewise, if you don’t like the grape-growing microclimate on the Peninsula, just drive 10 minutes – the widespread variation means you’re certain to find one that’s completely different. So it's hard to generalise about vintages here but we can safely say the spring and early summer rains across the region generally led to patchy fruit set and a relatively low-cropping year. We are conscious, though, that all that rainfall helped Mornington escape the smoke issues plaguing friends in other regions. Upside? Our region’s flagship variety, pinot noir, typically performs best when yields are low. We’re expecting wines of great structure and intensity, even though there won’t be a lot of it.

Tony Lee, Foxeys Hangout

YARRA VALLEY

Unlike many regions, we experienced above average rainfall throughout spring, providing excellent water reserves for the vines leading into summer. Temperatures were also slightly cooler in spring, which led to delayed budburst and flowering. December saw warmer, drier weather resulting in strong healthy vines entering the new year. Cooler conditions through February had a positive effect on ripening, slowing sugar accumulation and allowing excellent flavour development and acid retention. Very little fruit was harvested, with most grapes picked at a steady rate throughout a mild March. Yields were below average for most, but the resulting wines look very encouraging at this early stage. Expect wines full of flavour and fruit intensity with vibrant colour and excellent natural acidity.    

Sean Dean, Innocent Bystander

Canberra District, ACT

The 2020 vintage is certainly one we will never forget. Initially it looked like we would avoid nature’s obstacles – a late spring frost, a close call with a freak hail storm and disease was virtually non-existent. Then smoke from the bushfires hit and we made the heartbreaking decision to discard around 90% of our crop. However, our gewürztraminer and chardonnay grapes contained minimal levels of taint and the trial ferments were promising. Although it will only be a very small amount, we are excited that we will have something to show for the extraordinarily challenging 2020 vintage.

Stephanie Helm, The Vintner’s Daughter

New South Wales

ORANGE

Drought adversely affected the quantity of fruit picked in the Orange region: the quality is excellent, it’s just a shame there isn’t more of it. With harvesting now behind us, many of the wines and ferments are showing great promise. The region did extensive testing for smoke damage to make sure that no fruit that had the potential to be tainted was picked. Here’s to Vintage 2021.

Charlotte Grundy, Orange Region Vignerons’ Association

MUDGEE

It’s been a particularly tough growing season with extreme temperatures and little to no rain. However, given the dry conditions, there was little disease pressure and the fruit on the vines was of an extremely high quality. 2020 was to be a year of great red wines – unfortunately the season turned when bushfires hit. Various testing, analyses and tasting panels were conducted to assess the impact of smoke resulting in significant portion of the fruit being abandoned. A tough year for the Mudgee region but we’re continuing to learn from these tricky conditions and looking forward to 2021 with great optimism.

Jessica Chrcek, Mudgee Wine Association president

Northern Tasmania

The 2019/20 growing season so far has been our driest on record, with rainfall down 61% on the long-term average. It has also been cool, which has slowed growth and will likely push back harvest on some varieties. Unusually strong and persistent winds in spring and summer have also reduced the vigour of some varieties. We picked a little sparkling base fruit in the first week of March, and then spoiled our vintage crew with a comfortable break between that first influx and the picking of our table wines. At this stage, we envisage that yields will be down by around 15% on the average, but fruit quality, especially in the reds, is looking really good.  

Amy Russell, Josef Chromy Wines

South Australia

ADELAIDE HILLS

Periods of unseasonably low temperatures and occasional strong winds during flowering resulted in highly variable fruit-set across the region. Crop levels were on track to be below the five-year average even before the Cudlee Creek fire, which affected about one-third of the vines in the region and saw broad smoke exposure.

Exceptionally dry and occasionally hot conditions in December were a defining feature of the growing season. In the lead-up to the first heatwave of the summer, growers had already begun taking preventive irrigation measures to mitigate against potential damage. Vineyards untouched by fire appeared to suffer remarkably little sunburn damage – a good indication of proactive management.

January and February brought cooler and wetter conditions, and ripening continued at a reasonable pace before slowing down due to cooler night temperatures. Yields would have been similar to 2019 – lower than the long-term average – had it not been for losses to fire and smoke exposure.

Kerry Treuel, Adelaide Hills Wine

LANGHORNE CREEK

Annual rainfall for 2019 was well below average in the region. Spring saw frosts and crop losses while the flowering period was particularly dry and mostly cool, with some vineyards taking more than a month to complete flowering.

December and January were particularly dry and hot, but early February rainfall resulted in a cool ripening period. This maintained natural acidity in the grapes, and most fruit was harvested with higher-than-average malic acid levels and bright fruit flavours in reds. Harvest began on 6 February and continued until mid-April. Intake was lower than average and harvest followed a similar pattern to last year, but with more focus on later in the season. It was another compressed but trouble-free harvest, with excellent wine quality.

Lian Jaensch, Langhorne Creek Grape and Wine (with thanks to winemakers Paul Hotker, Sam Watkins and Rebecca Willson)

Western Australia

MARGARET RIVER

We had colder-than-average spring conditions in 2018 when the fruitful nodes formed for the 2020 vintage, resulting in a lower bunch-set. In the spring of 2019, hail, winds and rain impacted flowering and fruit-set across our four vineyards, creating low bunch weights. The positive outcome of this is exceptional fruit with divine concentration. While the 2020 vintage from Margaret River will be in scarce supply, it will be a very special vintage to look out for. Over December and January, warmer than average conditions with no rainfall events created ideal ripening conditions with no disease pressure. Sustained heat in January and February also meant a quick harvest of white varieties, and brought the red harvest on early. After a week of the most incredible sunshine and warmth, Tom’s finest old blocks were the last to be harvested on 27 March – remarkable conditions to finish on.

Virginia Willcock, Vasse Felix

GREAT SOUTHERN

WA is about halfway through one of the earliest vintages in many years. The quality has been fantastic and the yields coming in lower than normal. Hot, dry conditions have meant the only major concern for vineyards is water availability, with some vineyards reporting running out of water back in February. The majority of white grapes have been harvested, and shiraz and cabernet sauvignon were harvested over the first two weeks of March with both varieties tracking closely together. Standout varieties so far have been riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir. Shiraz is also looking like having a very high-quality year. Something to look forward to.

Patrick Corbett, Singlefile Wines