It’s been a devastating start to the year for many Australians, including those in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island who have been severely impacted by the bushfire crisis.

In the wake of such tragedy, wine producers in the nearby McLaren Vale region are counting themselves lucky, with a positive outlook ahead for their 2020 vintage.

McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association (MVGWTA) General Manager, Jennifer Lynch, said despite the difficult start to the year, it was heartening to see the South Australian wine industry rally around each other.

“It’s been a devastating couple of months for our cool climate neighbours in the Adelaide Hills, friends in Kangaroo Island, and many other parts of Australia. However the spirit of inter-regional collaboration and generosity has been truly heart-warming. Many of our region’s producers have hosted charity events, auctions and even donated labour and equipment to assist in fire recovery efforts,” Lynch said.

“McLaren Vale was lucky to be spared, we approach vintage 2020 with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.”

Although McLaren Vale was spared from the flames themselves, the possibility of smoke taint is still there. However, MVGWTA is helping growers in the region assess their crops for this and says the testing is just a precautionary measure. Initial assessments have so far indicated that the risk of smoke taint is low.

The positive outlook for this year’s vintage is due to the good health of the vineyards throughout 2019. Producers in the region have been extra vigilant with their irrigation throughout dry weather conditions experienced in spring and summer, which has helped to alleviate the onset of stress for most vines.

Viticulturalist and Co-owner of Gemtree Wines, Melissa Brown, said the accessibility of the McLaren Vale region’s recycled water program was a huge help in an unusually hot time of year.

Brown said: “The season has had its ups and downs but overall we have fared well. Whilst there were some very hot days in December and early January – having access to the recycled water program eased the potential onset of stress in vineyards.”

“We received over 75mm of rain in January and February which has set the vines up well leading into harvest.”

Stephen Pannell, Winemaker and Owner of S.C. Pannell Wines, agrees that good water management has helped protect vineyards throughout the drier months.

“Below average winter rainfall backed up by good water management and accessibility with a heap of rain in February so far has resulted in moderate crops but the fruit looks good – in fact it looks better here than in any other South Australian region. The interesting point is late ripening which is a real positive,” said Pannell.

Winemaker at Ryecroft and Longline Wines, Paul Carpenter, described what will characterise the 2020 vintages coming out of McLaren Vale, dubbing a ‘trilogy of McLaren Vale reds’ as standouts.

He said: “Grape quality and resultant wine quality looks particularly promising in Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. Shiraz at this early stage looks to be the star of the vintage with moderate crops and smallish berry size heading for concentrated flavours.”

“All in all it has been a season of many challenges but what awaits is modest crops and excellent vine health that is likely to see rapid flavour development and the smell of fermenting grapes flooding the Vale.”

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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