In the wake of Australia’s tough start to the year, the McLaren Vale wine region is heartened to share a positive outlook for the upcoming 2020 vintage.
Dry weather conditions throughout the spring and summer months of 2019 resulted in vigilant irrigation by growers, alleviating the onset of stress in most vineyards.
Viticulturist and co-owner of Gemtree Wines, Melissa Brown, credits the accessibility of the region’s recycled water program as a contributing factor to the good health of vineyards during an unusually hot end to the year.
“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,” said Brown.
“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 also acknowledges good water management as a safeguard through 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.
In addition to good health in the vineyards and a positive outlook, community collaboration has seen spirits buoyed with fundraising efforts to assist nearby fire-affected regions in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo raising more than $100,000 in donations.
McLaren Vale Grape Wine & Tourism Association (MVGWTA) general manager, Jennifer Lynch notes the region’s camaraderie during a difficult and emotional start to the year for the South Australian wine industry.
“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,” said Lynch.
“McLaren Vale was lucky to be spared – we approach vintage 2020 with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.”
As a precautionary measure, MVGWTA is supporting the region’s growers in assessing the risk of smoke exposure through voluntary coordinated sample testing. Although too early to confirm, initial assessments indicate that the risk of smoke tainted fruit is low as the exposure occurred prior to veraison.
Paul Carpenter, winemaker at Ryecroft and Longline Wines highlights the ‘trilogy of McLaren Vale reds’ as standout varieties to watch this vintage.
“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,” said Carpenter.
“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.”