As much as 90% of the Hunter Valley’s 2020 harvest will not be made into wine this year because of smoke taint, with growing areas such as Cowra and Mudgee face similar tough news regarding the NSW vintage.
Smoke taint occurs when the fruit absorbs too much smoke and sours, creating undrinkable wine. Supply contracts for growers contain a clause that allows winemakers to refuse smoke-tainted grapes.
“NSW harvests grapes early,” said Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon noted regarding the NSW vintage. “Growers in Hunter, Mudgee and Cowra areas are facing extensive crop losses.”
Tyrrell’s announced in late January that it was facing 80% crop loss due to smoke taint.
While Tyrrell’s has not been directly impacted by fire damage, the continued presence of smoke in the Hunter Valley since late October 2019 means that many of its vineyards have been affected by smoke taint.
“This decision has been our own and reinforces our premium quality standing in the world of fine wine,” Tyrrell’s said in a statement. “As with any other year, any wine that we do bottle from the 2020 vintage will only be of a standard that the family deem befitting of our 162 year legacy.
Mount Pleasant Wines has since announced it is scrapping its 2020 vintage entirely. It’s a devastating blow following parent company McWilliams Wines Group going into voluntary administration last month.
Brokenwood Wines, Meerea Park Wines and Davis Wine Group have also reassessed harvesting their grapes, with some being left unpicked.
Christina Tulloch, the chief executive of Tulloch Wines and president of the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association, told The Guardian the hardship comes after the bushfires cost the region $42million in lost tourism.
“That’s the economic loss based purely on visitation – people visiting cellar doors,” she said. “It is still too early to put a figure on the loss in production as we would normally be in the middle of vintage. We are hearing reports of between 50 to 90% of crop loss due to smoke taint.
“Overall, we’re saying the loss will be more likely to be around 80 to 90% in reduction of tonnage that is brought into wineries in the 2020 year.”
Executive Officer of the NSW Wine Industry Association Angus Barnes told the Australian Financial Review: “Good wines will still be made right across the state this year.
“But we can’t sugar-coat it: the impact is likely to be considerable. We are looking at losses of $100 million or more, especially when you take into consideration the disastrous impact on wine tourism the fires have had.”