Winemakers predict high quality, but not quantity
by Jackson Lavell-Lee
Augusta Margaret River TimesThursday, 13 February 2020
A warmer than average year has resulted in a mad rush for grape pickers in the Margaret River wine region, with some vineyards so desperate they will offer extra pay for employee referrals.
The hotter weather has put pressure on wineries for more pickers and harvesting machines, while space to store ageing wines is premium.
Despite this challenge, experts have predicted exceptional quality, with Fraser Gallop Estate winemaker Clive Otto likening his grapes to the global award-winning 2007 vintage.
“In my 30 years in Margaret River, this is even earlier than 2007, which was a short turnaround, so I would say the cabernets will be greater than the chardonnays this year,” he said.
“We have very high acids and high sugars this year and that combination is about getting the balance right and getting it picked quickly.
“We can see the colouring up evening of the cabernet, which is going to be fantastic, and the chardonnays have a lovely bright acidity, which is a good thing for long life.”
Fraser Gallop Estate Managing Director Nigel Gallop (left) and Winemaker Clive Otto (right). Photo: Jackson Lavell-Lee
Wineries across the region are reporting quantity is down but quality is up, with no disease. Margaret River Wine Association chief executive Amanda Whitehead said early reports were positive.
“For most vineyards in Margaret River, the 2020 vintage began one to two weeks earlier than an average year, and two to three weeks earlier than last year across the region due to the early season temperatures and heat accumulation,” she said. “The abundant marri blossom, little to no bird pressure and lower yields are all contributing to the quality looking exceptionally good.”
Harvesting is usually a six-week process, yet the 2020 vintage will mostly be picked over a two or three-week period.
Blind Corner director and winemaker Ben Gould said the promising vintage was “possibly the earliest we’ve picked”.
“Early reports are showing yields could be a little lower on average, so far about 20-40 per cent less,” he said.
“In January we had the grapes change colour quickly with a high sugar accumulation and flavour development. There are always challenges but this year has been good with lots of flowering and no damaged bunches.”
Mr Gould said the organic and biodynamic practices he employed, which were widespread in the Margaret River region, had ensured a sustainable and consistent quality.