The good or the bad news…

Vineyard / Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Which one do you want first?!

Let’s just start with the bad and just get it out of the way. OK?

Smoke taint

With the AWRI (Australian Wine Research Institute) working 7-days a week to get through the back-log of samples for smoke taint analysis, results are starting to trickle through.

And despite what the experts were predicting, the news isn’t great.

With about 200 samples already tested, a little under 50% are showing signs of smoke taint.

This is obviously a devastating blow for those affected. Some vineyards are still reeling from losing significant parts of their vineyard to fire. Now, they are having to reject some or all of their remaining grapes from vintage 2020.

The really important thing to remember here though is while the fire (and smoke) damage is widespread, it is not universal.

There are still large parts of the Adelaide Hills that are hard at work, harvesting good quality grapes and making what will no doubt be some exceptional wines.

So don’t write off vintage 2020 completely!



Which brings me to the good news…


Somerled vintage 2020

It has officially begun for Somerled this week with our 2020 Chardonnay and Rosé…


Rob doing his own kitchen lab tests!

Due to the fire damage at Kim Anderson’s vineyard in Charleston, we took Chardonnay from the Romney Park vineyard (in Balhannah) this year.

The grapes ripened beautifully and were testing at around 11.5 baume late last week. The expectation was that they would come up to 13.0 baume by the time we picked them on Sunday night.

However… the lovely fine weather we had during the day on Sunday gave way to a drizzly and wet night! The fruit was machine harvested and finished up at 11.8 baume. For Rob, this is pretty close to ideal!

The fruit went straight into the press and three hours later was all in tank!

It’s now settling and is already very clear and a lovely pale colour. The juice has plenty of flavour, is sweet and quite viscous. Very tasty already. It will be racked soon and yeast added to start fermentation.




Pinot Noir:

Kim Anderson’s Pinot Noir was too badly burned and smoke damaged to be used for winemaking this year. So, Rob has decided to use the small tonnage of Pinot available from Paul Henschke (at Summertown) for our 2020 Rosé and also for a small batch of light dry red.

It was all hand-picked on Wednesday. The fruit was really nice – clean as a whistle, small berries with small bunches and evenly coloured (see photo).  Half of the fruit was crushed last night to an open fermenter. That will become the dry red.

The balance was pressed last night and is set to become our 2020 Rosé.  It went through the destemmer but not the rollers, so wasn’t crushed in the full sense of the word! Nice juice at 12.0 baume.  There’s a fair bit of colour, but this will drop out with settling and then with yeast fermentation and later MLF.

Here is a video Rob took of the Pinot Noir harvest…



Tempranillo was the only variety on Kim Anderson’s vineyard which was untouched. The worry now though is obviously smoke taint.

Initial results were apparently not too bad, but we are nervously waiting for the next results from the AWRI.


Sauvignon Blanc:

All the Sauvignon Blanc we normally take from Kim Anderson was severely affected by fire. Even though there are some nice patches of vineyard with good looking Sauvignon Blanc bunches, it will all be too smoke affected to be useful. So, that means, no Sauvignon Blanc or Fumé Blanc for vintage 2020.



Rob also had a look at 4 blocks of shiraz at McLaren Vale this week and the fruit looks really good.  Biggish bunches but loose, and with small dark ripe berries.  Very nice flavour and still high acid. He’s really very impressed!  That will be picked next week, so check in here for updates.



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Not that I want to end on the bad news again, but we really are pretty lucky in the big scheme of things.

I was travelling through Canberra a few weeks ago and stopped at a very well-known winery in Murrembateman. They reported that there won’t be one single 2020 vintage wine produced from that region. The grapes there sat under smoke for around 8 weeks. at a very critical stage of development.

I have also been in touch with a winery from Porepunkah in the Alpine Valley wine region of Victoria. They too won’t have any wine from vintage 2020. Again, the smoke hung around for too long at exactly the wrong time.

However, this winery (and many others, I imagine) have decided to make the best of a bad situation. They are planning on using their smoke tainted grapes to make several small batches of wine. They will deploy different winemaking techniques to see how this affects the smoke compound levels in the resulting wines. The results will provide invaluable knowledge needed to make winemaking decisions in future smoke events. 

What a great way to turn a negative into a positive!

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