2020 Vintage Report: Part 1

  • Howard Park,
  • Event

The 2020 vintage has been in progress now for several weeks and it’s an opportune time to get some thoughts around the character of this harvest season so far. 

Our Chief Viticulturist David Botting has been logging thousands of miles already this year between our Margaret River and Great Southern vineyards, observing fruit development and coordinating harvest dates for different varieties and vineyard blocks with our Chief Winemaker Janice McDonald. 

When asked for some key takeaways, at first David was able to distil it down into one word, “Early!” - both in relation to 2019 and also the long term average.  It was warm and dry conditions throughout 2019 that caused this acceleration in the vine cycle across all our varieties and in both of our growing regions.  David has been keeping Jeff Burch fully updated on our progress, and last week Jeff offered this summary of his own observations:

“We will have all our white grapes picked by this weekend and hope to start on Pinot Noir late next week, so I can now make some comments on the white vintage.

We were very lucky to have a lot of blossom on all of the native trees throughout the South West this year, which was not the case in 2019. The ample blossom kept all of the birds busy with their preferred feed and away from our grapes. Although we did use our bird nets, it was obvious that there was no bird damage to the fruit.

The season has been very dry, particularly in the Great Southern and we have used our carry-over water from the last two years to strategically water the whites. Water was not an issue in Margaret River and the dry weather meant we had little disease pressure. It has not been particularly hot, and we have had steady ripening right through to picking.

The vintage has delivered whites that are ripe, clean, with no bird peck or disease. 2020 is a very high-quality vintage, but like all things in agriculture, yields are down considerably, particularly Chardonnay. The cold weather in November 2019 and 2018 has had an effect on fruitfulness, bunch weights are down leading to lower yields across the total vintage: Chardonnay -33%, Sauvignon Blanc -15%, Semillon -8%, Riesling -22%

Hand-picked Whites - Howard Park

In summary, the 2020 white vintage will result in quality wines being made but there will be less to sell, particularly at the top end! Let’s see what the reds will do….”

When asked about the outlook ahead for our red varieties, particularly Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet, David Botting noted that some timely rain that fell in both regions just after Jeff had reported above will help refresh the vines ahead of their impending harvest.  We expect to pick Shiraz in Margaret River and Pinot Noir in the Great Southern this week and then allow a few more weeks of ripening and hanging time for Cabernet Sauvignon.

In terms of quality and yields for the red grapes we are excited about what we are seeing and are looking forward to some exceptional fruit coming into the winery.  In our estate vineyards careful management throughout the growing season has given us the ability to balance crop loads within each block to ensure both the fruit quality and quantity will meet our expectations.

We’ll report back with the outcomes in a couple of weeks’ time!