Our picking gangs are normally made up of people from all over the world with many backpackers amongst them and there was the usual excitement in our region when picking was about to start. We collected our harvest assistant, Yasuko, from the train station and everyone was in good spirits. By that time, we had only just heard the first reports of a new virus taking hold in other parts of the world…
The growing season had started well with the rains coming early, resulting in a very wet May. In hindsight that was a real blessing because all the remaining months through to harvest in March had rainfall totals below or well below average. It became progressively drier as the temperatures began to rise in spring and by early summer it was not only very dry but very hot.
December broke all sorts of long-standing maximum temperature records. Unfortunately, a run of 4 days over 40 degrees combined with strong winds started bushfires in the Adelaide Hills which destroyed many thousands of hectares including vineyards, outbuildings and homes.
Extreme weather conditions returned at the end of the month starting the Kangaroo Island bushfires and by January 6 around one third of the island had been burnt. We felt great empathy for those affected and lucky to have avoided disaster ourselves. Our daughter Indi volunteered to help with the RSPCA Kangaroo Island bushfire disaster relief effort to find that she was one of 13,500 who answered the call for just 120 people! She wasn’t needed but it was heartening to discover such a great response from people as far away as Russia!
McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek were very fortunate as there were no fires close enough to threaten us directly and no smoke near enough to cause any taint in the wine. At home the harvest came early and the Grenache crop was below average on the Winery Block and tiny on BJs, overall producing less than half the usual quantity of Eclipse.
At Langhorne Creek we knew the crop was small but we were shocked to discover how little was actually there. It turned out to be the smallest crop ever on these vineyards due partly to a spring frost, compounded by windy weather at flowering and followed by the dry, hot conditions throughout summer.
Shiraz from the 20 Rows block yielded just 10% of the crop in a good year and Cabernet from the Fruit Trees block gave about 25% of what we usually expect. By the time we were picking at Langhorne Creek COVID had started to impact the movement of people and we were lucky to get a gang of pickers together.
Social distancing suddenly became a thing and we did our best to comply. We passed the picking buckets along carefully and sat separately at breaks, mindful of everyone not from our own household! The new normal.
So, to the wines: the Noon Eclipse, Reserve Shiraz and Reserve Cabernet are all lovely, robust, full-bodied wines in 2020. They reflect the warm, dry year from which they came with the extra concentration of flavour that comes from low yields and I wish we had a cellar full of them.
We managed to produce only 3 barrels of Twelve Bells so it is extremely limited this year but I suppose that’s better than last year when there was none.
A pleasant surprise from 2020 is our first V.P. since 2016! Despite the conditions, our young Graciano bush vines yielded a modest sized crop which ripened quickly to a high sugar level. We decided this would make a lovely V.P. and picked it together with a small amount of Mataro we recently planted alongside to produce this wine.
We hope you will enjoy all of the new wines!
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