Vintage 2020 has delivered wines of amazing quality. However, quantity is very limited. It was the lowest grape yield per hectare since we began making Kalleske wine in 2002. In his 60+ years working on our Kalleske farm, Dad (John) recalls this 2020 vintage as the lowest yielding since vintage 1968 that followed the 1967 drought. Across South Australia, the SA Wine Industry Association estimates 2020 grape yields in SA will be down 50 percent. Barossa Grape and Wine Association said while the quality of grapes was good, yields in the Barossa Valley were down 50 per cent on average with many blocks, especially Shiraz, down by as much as 80 percent.
The principal reason that yields were so dire is a combination of early mild frost conditions, then a notably windy period around flowering leading to poor set (not many berries) followed by some hot days in November and an overall dry growing season.
The vines burst bud in September and then flower in November. In the Barossa, October and November are the windiest months of the year but this year they were exceptionally windy with October averaging 24% faster wind speeds and November 45% windier than normal. Spring and Summer temperatures were 1-2 degrees warmer than average. Growing season rainfall was down by 20% in Winter, 53% in Spring and 34% in Summer. 254mm of rain fell in this period (June 2019 – Feb 2020) instead of the average 386mm. For interest, June 1967 – Feb 1968 recorded an almost identical 248mm.
Vintage began for us on February 26th when Semillon was hand harvested. This was followed the next day with Chenin Blanc, Viognier and the first of the Shiraz. It was a tight vintage, only lasting 5 weeks, with the last of the grapes, being Grenache and Petit Verdot, harvested on March 31st.
Whilst yields are severely down, importantly quality is of the highest echelon. Colours are intense and flavours are rich and robust. That is our opinion of our Kalleske wines but across the Barossa and most of SA, quality is regarded as exceptional. So, when 2020 wines are released, we recommend to not hesitate in purchasing them, with limited quantity they won’t last long on the shelf but the reds will certainly be ones to last a long time in the cellar.