On the back of Friday’s article, news filtered through today from another well-known Hunter Valley winery will be declassifying some juice this year, with the results of some micro-ferments producing wines with notable smoke taint characters.
That makes two of the better known Hunter winemakers who are reporting smoke issues, a nod to how challenging the 2020 vintage looks to be. Again, I need to stress that Australia is a giant continent, and the Hunter is just one region. But given that over 180 people attended a forum in NE Victoria last week on smoke taint, so it’s not just a Hunter Valley worry. I spotted on Instagram one Victorian winemaker who had seen grapes covered in ash from bushfires…
That said, the rain really was widespread over the weekend, with up to 100mm of manna from heavean dropping up and down the east coast and perhaps washing off said ash. There is hope yet, and as Alisdair Tulloch of Keith Tulloch explained just recently, even in the Hunter Valley not all vineyards are affected:
‘If some vineyards suffer smoke taint, it doesn’t mean they all will. I’d hate for the perception to get out that the vintage in general is no good. It’s too early for that. As I say, our fruit looks amazing’ he said.
For producers in other regions, the issue is not smoke taint, it’s drought. As McLaren Vale viti guru James Hook told WBM’s The Week That Was (the essential wine industry newsletter, for what it’s worth), tonnages will be down in South Australia too.
‘The size of the harvest is likely to be down. We’re hoping it’s not down as low as 2007 which came at the end of the millennium drought. If we picked up a few thunderstorms, that could swell berries up and boost the tonnages’ he said.
‘As for smoke taint it is felt that we’re not going to have a problem. The high risk period for smoke taint begins at E-L 36 post veraison and our smoky days were well before that point’.
It’s a bit of a perfect storm for some vignerons with hail, frost and uneven flowering (or variations of those factors) tied in with drought to make for tiny yields. David Eldridge at Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula estimates that his yields are 25% of what they were in 2019.