As I write this, April is coming to an end and I’m staring out my office window as rain falls heavily on Torbreck vineyards. It is relieving and very welcomed to see our vines soak up what is a rather over extended period between drinks.
The 2020 vintage at Torbreck vintners commenced on the 12th of February with the harvest of Semillon and concluded on the 3rd of April with an early rain event that was not expected.
It’s one of the strangest vintages I have worked in over 30 years due to the changing of the seasons almost in the middle of harvest. The very hot and dry December and January was bookended by a cooler than normal February and March. The Covid-19 effect on staff and working conditions added new dimension to what is an intense period of focus and concentration for my winemaking team and I. The shorter harvest saw our international staff return home prior to airline closures and lockdown in the Barossa Valley from coronavirus blooms.
The seasonal conditions leading up to harvest were preceded by a dry winter and spring that affected overall moisture availability. At flowering strong winds followed by a continued dry growing period, reduced berry and bunch count in many vineyards. The growing season was also defined by a continuously warm to hot summer with no effective rainfall events until February. It has been another difficult season to manage for both grower and winemaker with the lower than anticipated yields.
The wind at flowering, in my opinion, has had a greater effect on yield than water availability. Earlier southern ripening sites such as Hillside and Daylight Chambers that flowered before the winds produced average yields whilst later sites north of Tanunda were more affected by the wind and yielded poorly.
The warm dry conditions subsided mid-February then remained cool through March and into April slowing ripening. Early indications of quality look strong considering the potential for high variability across sites. I believe that this weather trend will see these wines in a slightly higher class than 2019 which I also rate very strongly.
Another tiny harvest of the Laird vineyard has resulted in an exceptionally concentrated wine, this magnificent vineyard was able to endure the growing season with great resilience. Older vineyards with deeper roots also remained steadfast under these conditions. Grenache blocks for The Steading, and Run Rig Shiraz blocks in particular stood at attention until being relieved of their fruit once harvested.
Mataro vineyards produced deeply concentrated wines from lower yields however as the latest flowering variety they were more affected by the wind in spring. Semillon and Viognier were the starring whites, delicate flavors and aromas have resulted in some very pleasing wines.
In summary the yields of 2020 have been a disappointing outcome, but the overall quality of these small yields has created deeply colored and textured wines that resonate their place of origin.
Torbreck 2020 - small but special.