The Barossa wine industry has faced another challenging vintage in 2020, with yields at least 50% below the 10-year average.
The positive news is quality is high, and Barossa’s in-short-supply wines will remain in strong demand on the domestic and international wine scene.
Barossa’s reduced yield is due to another below-average rainfall winter and spring, temperamental spring weather – and a hot, dry December and early January.
Barossa Valley The growing season started dry and continued that way. The January to June 2019 rainfall was 60% of average. Winter 2019 rain was more promising with 148mm (88% of average), but spring 65mm (54%) and summer 40mm (74%) didn’t follow up on the promise. March recorded only 2.8mm (11%) of rain.
The 2019 calendar year was the driest on record for the Nuriootpa weather station.
In some parts of Barossa, flowering was upset by a frost on 18 October. In early November flowering wine grapes endured a period of strong winds, followed by many cold nights through mid-November (day and night temperatures 1 to 1.5 degrees below average). Then in late November, extremely hot weather affected later flowering areas and varieties, notably the 42-degree day on 20 November.
A hot December followed. Of the last 16 days in December, 11 were over 35C and 8 over 40C.
Not surprisingly, the combination of all these extremes meant the vines generally set below average bunch size, and berries remained smaller than normal as they developed.
Later January and February provided some relief. Average February maximum temperature was 26.5C – 3C below average, with average minimum temperature 13.4C, which is 1.2C below the average. This, combined with 21mm of rain on 1 February, enabled many vineyards to slowly ripen their grapes, with flavour and phenological ripening keeping pace with sugar development.
Yields varied from vineyard to vineyard and variety to variety, but most are well below average, with indications the region could be 50% below ‘normal’.
The good news is flavours and colours (in reds) and overall quality is exceptional. Early standout varieties include Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet.