Vintage 2020 for Aussie winemakers

Published by Tamara Harrison - 31st Jan 2020

Here’s a little update on the state of play with winemaker Tim Smith’s upcoming vintage and the general vibe about Vintage 2020. Take it away Tim…

No doubt most people would be aware that Australia has experienced unprecedented bush fire activity for months now and there’s a lot of questions regarding the impact it has on grapes that are ripening and the chance of smoke taint. It’s been reported that some regions of Australia have almost been completely wiped out and there may be no grapes picked at all. In South Australia, there’s large parts of the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island that have been affected but it’s really important to understand that the effects aren’t in all areas of the Hills or indeed our State.

In the Barossa, we experienced a couple of weeks of light, but slightly annoying smoke haze in early January. This has now cleared over a week ago. So what are the implications for our upcoming harvest? Grab yourself a glass of either The Kick 2018 Barossa Shiraz, or The Triplet 2018 GSM, and I’ll try and explain in less than a thousand words…

Over the Christmas/New Year period, we experienced quite a number of very hot days in the Barossa-some over 40 degrees. With our grapevines going through the last few stages of getting ripe and ready for turning into wine a number of things happen.

Step 1:
Firstly, when vines experience temperatures above about 35 degrees, they tend to shut down and effectively do nothing. No flavour development, no sugar accumulation, no growth of shoots. It’s like they hunker down and try to just go to ground. The other, significant thing they do, (other than making great wine!) is that the slowly forming berries change from a green colour (in the case of red grapes) to a red colour, the skins soften, and then the sugar and flavours that winemakers love to start building. This changing of colour is known as ‘veraison’. Above is a photo which was taken this morning in my vineyard of a bunch that’s about halfway through.

Step 2:
Its widely believed that the effects of smoke taint on grapevines are typically noticed more, the later in the growing season that it occurs. Its also believed that before veraison, there’s a very low risk, unless of course, the vineyard is right in the fire. This hasn’t been the case in the Barossa. We are by no means in the safe zone right now (here’s hoping though) but to date, we’ve only had smoke from regions a fair distance away. So, with this in mind, and the fact that the heatwave we experienced early in January, it appears that heatwave has in a strange way helped us through these terrible fires by delaying our regions’ vine development and getting them past the danger period.

This also adds up to indicating that our start to vintage will most likely be delayed as well, as the vines work hard to ripen. We do know that the crop level is going to be very low, even lower than last year in some instances, but of course there is the upside in that the quality will be particularly good.

So we’ve still got another 5 weeks at least before we start harvest, let’s hope for no more fires anywhere, mild days and nights, and being able to enjoy a great range of wines from all the great Australian regions made by Naked Winemakers!!

Best regards


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