Hope hangs in the air for 2020 harvest

By Anita McPherson

Among those attending a workshop at Brown Brothers was David Maples from Gracebrook Wines in the King Valley.

As the smoke lifted last Wednesday afternoon over his vineyard and the blue sky and clear views towards the eastern ranges returned, it brought with it some hope that all was not lost.

Maples said while it was obvious local wineries were under pressure from the potential of the smoke impact, it was not yet conclusive one way or the other what the effect would be.

He said if it rains and the skies clear, he still thought if possible to have a successful vintage.

“Until testing is done on each individual site on each individual varietal, we just don’t know,” he said.

“Here in the valley, because of those south westerly winds, a lot of the smoke from earlier events was blown away from us.

“It’s probably only been the last couple of days with smoke coming from Rose River that we’ve come under pressure.

“The jury is still out – and we’ll have to evaluate it as the season goes forward.”

Maples said both the grape and the juice would be tested up to three weeks before harvest, and if it was concluded there was contamination, then no wine would be made.

But he said this year was completely different from the experience of 2006/2007 when heavy and “rancid” smoke from a fire which started in December, blanketed the valley for three months.

“From our position we’re hopeful – the position of other individuals who have been more highly impacted will be different,” he said.

“But being on the western side of the valley and in our location we still have a little bit of optimism right now.

“We had a strong south westerly which made horrendous fire conditions for others (in the Alpine Valley) so it’s only been the last couple of days with the smoke coming from Mount Emu and Rose River which has had some impact here in the valley.”

Maples said were it not for the fires, all his vineyards, where a wide range of red and white grape varieties are grown, were looking outstanding.

He said the weather forecast for the next few days was also promising, although the on-site restaurant and cellar door would remain closed until the air quality improved.

“Despite the dry conditions, we did have about 50mm on rain at the start of December which helped, and the vines and the fruit look exceptional at this point in time,” he said.

“While we’ve got these conditions we’ve made the executive decision to keep the cellar door and the restaurant closed because we don’t want visitors to have a negative experience because of the smoke in the valley.

“We also don’t want our staff working in adverse conditions.

“When the sky clears and the sun comes out we’ll be back up and running.”

This article originally appeared in the Wangaratta Chronicle