The Free Press (Corowa)
Winemakers toast strong 2021 vintage
With the 2021 harvest complete, local winemakers have had their spirits boosted with exceptional quality and strong yields across the board.
The La Nina weather pattern provided good rainfall over winter and spring, and a relatively cool summer, setting the scene for a strong vintage.
It’s a stark contrast to last year’s vintage with the effects of drought, heatwaves and bushfire smoke creating many challenges for local grape growers. This was combined with the added pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark said the 2020 crush was the lowest since 2007 at 1.52 million tonnes.
“While quality was generally high in 2020, it was a challenging vintage, with drought conditions affecting much of Australia and bushfires affecting a small number of wine regions,” Mr Clark said.
The total volume of Australian wine sales in 2019–20 was just over 1.2 billion litres (136 million 9-litre cases), of which 40 per cent was sold on the domestic market and 60 per cent was exported. Domestic sales were down by one per cent, while exports were down nine per cent.
Morris Wines senior winemaker David Morris said he was feeling “pretty confident” with this year’s vintage.
“It is early days still, but the milder conditions this year have provided good tannin and character development. This year we received good quality fruit. The rainfall in the spring was good and we had minimal disease pressure,” he said.
“If you get right in the vineyard, it makes the winemaking process much easier. The reds are probably our strongest performers, particular shiraz and durif.”
At All Saints Estate, Winemaker and General Manager Nick Brown remarked on the incredible twelve-month turnaround.
“As I have been bringing in the fruit and sorting through it, my observation is that everything is balanced and happy,” he said.
“Nothing has been rushed by hot weather or rain, so the fruit has ripened happily keeping the flavour in sync. The balance of flavour and acidity in the fruit is exceptional due to the constant temperatures, not too hot and not too wet.
“The slower the ripening occurs the better, and this year has been the best in about seven years. Expect wines from 2021 to have a concentration in flavour and to be exceptionally balanced. The 2021 vintage will one for cellaring.”
As with a lot of wineries in the region, finding labour was a challenge at All Saints Estate.
“It’s been a beautiful year as far as growing grapes goes, but labour has been a challenge this year,” Mr Brown said.
“We handpick about 10 per cent of our vineyard because of the age of the vines, and we usually have pickers on tap (so to speak). All of our visa holders had to go home due to Covid. Because of the absence of backpackers, those pickers that are still out there are in higher demand than usual”
Over at Pfeiffer Wines in Wahgunyah, this year’s harvest was different to previous years with the milder summer slowing down the ripening process. It was a welcome change though with senior winemaker Chris Pfeiffer remarking that everyone was very pleased with the overall vintage with a total of 667 tonnes was crushed this year.
“We are all feeling really happy because it’s so much better than last year,” he said.
“This year, we didn’t have the contamination issues that we had last year with the smoke. The wet weather did create a few issues with disease pressure during harvest.
“The yields are probably average to slightly above around the area. Overall quality is pretty good. The fruit has some really nice flavours in it so we will see some really nice wines come out of it.”
Like All Saints, a shortage of labour provided a challenge early on, however the Pfeiffer team were fortunate to pull in workers from across the region including an international student from the University of Adelaide.
“Normally we have international people come in and help us with vintage. While there wasn’t quite the pool we normally have with hand picking we eventually got the numbers we needed,” Mr Pfeiffer said.
“It will be interesting to see as we move into pruning, whether the labour will be around for that.”