Hunter Valley winemaker Tyrrell’s has announced its 2020 vintage will be severely reduced following smoke taint concerns.
While the vineyard 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.
Tyrrell’s has been working closely with the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), and Dr Ian Porter of La Trobe University, who have been testing the vineyards’ grapes across the region for smoke taint.
The vineyard has also been conducting micro ferments in its own laboratory, which has led us to the decision that most of their vineyards will not be harvested for wine production.
Earlier in January as a collective, the Hunter Valley Vineyard Association sent off roughly 110 fruit samples from 30 different Hunter Valley wineries to AWRI to be tested for smoke taint.
If tainted grapes are made into wine they will have unpredictable levels of undesirable characters and this will normally get worse over time.
Tyrrell’s said in a statement: “We, as a family, have decided to have a significantly reduced vintage compared to previous years. We are estimating a total crop loss of 80%.”
The impact of smoke taint is not universal across the region. The Hunter Valley is a large geographical area and Tyrrell’s noted there were many factors to consider when making its decision, including proximity to the fires, elevation of vineyards, and days in contact with fresh smoke.
Tyrrell’s won four gold medals at the 2019 NSW Wine Awards.
“This decision has been our own and reinforces our premium quality standing in the world of fine wine,” Tyrrell’s said. “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.
“As the drought continues, the grapes from these affected vineyards will not go to waste and will be utilised as mulch and feed for the cattle on our property.”
The Tyrrell’s Cellar Door remains open for business as usual.
Widespread concerns about smoke taint
Late last month, wine growers in the Hunter Valley expressed concerns that millions of dollars of crops may have been destroyed by smoke from the bushfires and backburning operations.
“If it has impacted the way it looks like it has, it will wipe out the entire crop of grapes from the Broke Fordwich area,” winemaker Andrew Margan told ABC News.
He said smoke taint in grapes could cause wine to taste like “the bottom of a dirty ashtray” and the grapes were most vulnerable when their skins were thin right before harvest.