Case of the missing grapes

Vintage has kicked off in the Barossa Valley but it’s not all good news along the grape vines.

Numerous wineries are reporting a decrease in the number of grapes in the vineyard due to the lack of rain received last year in spring.

While a grape harvest over a hot year in a warm climate can produce a good vintage initial studies have shown excessive climate change can be disastrous.

Chief Viticulturist at Schild Estate, Michael Schild, said they were not too bad off because they started early irrigation on the vineyard.

“Due to a lack of spring rain we haven’t had our usual crop,” Michael said.

“Our rainfall in Rowland Flat was 15 inches last year compared to our average yearly rainfall of 21 inches.”

The lack of spring rain has meant wineries in the Barossa are, on average, down by about 10 to 25 per cent in the number of grapes they would usually produce in a year.

While it doesn’t seem likely that Barossa wineries will run into any financial difficulties, because of the drier season, consumers of Barossa wine can expect to see less 2013 vintage on the shelves.

Two Hands Wines winemaker Matt Wenk said their 2013 vintage season had been influenced by the spring weather in 2011 “when the inflorescence numbers for 2013 are influenced”.

“We saw a reduced yield in early November 2012 and so sourced more fruit to make up for the shortfall,” Matt said.

“We still may have a shortfall but we have good volumes of very good 2012 wines and so can make the 2012 selling cycle longer to make up the 2013 shortfall.”

While some Barossa wineries were too busy picking grapes to comment on the issue Barossa Grape and Wine Acting Chief Executive Officer James March was able to provide an overview on how the vineyards were fairing.

“From speaking with the wineries there has been good quality fruit picked this year,” Mr March said.

Grant Burge Wines chief winemaker Craig Stansborough said it is not only the number of grapes but the berry size and weight that are also smaller than usual.

“We had a very good 2012 which will keep us in good stead for the year ahead,” Craig said.

“It’s a little too early to tell for the red. We are about a week away from picking the shiraz but I’d say we are down about 15 to 20 per cent.”

With other Barossa wineries also reporting about a 15 to 30 per cent drop in shiraz grapes there is going to be a demand placed on the 2013 Shiraz.

While the 2014 crop has been predetermined, Barossa wineries are hoping for a good wet winter and early spring rain to help bring the grapes back.

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