The bushfire crisis facing Australia right now is unprecedented and something that will continue to have flow on effects for months and years to come. It is important however to know the facts so we can all make informed decisions and only pass on accurate information.
While 1/3rd of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region, including our vineyard, was within the December 2019 fire grounds, not all vines in the affected area were destroyed.
We were extremely lucky and our vineyard here at Kenton Valley only sustained minimal damage with most of it effecting our fencing and irrigation. We had our irrigation system up and running again after just three days and we still have a good supply of water.
We have resumed our standard viticultural program of trimming, training and spraying the vines and I am happy to say the vines are looking healthy and the crop is looking promising for the upcoming 2020 vintage; the berries, although very immature and only pea sized, are looking robust and plentiful.
I have had many years’ experience in the wine industry, and fire in vineyards is not an uncommon event. I have however found that sometimes the negative effects of fire can be grossly exaggerated and usually by people with no scientific background. In the coming months you will hear many people discussing the topic of smoke taint and we wanted our customers to know the facts and what we will be doing to avoid this in our wines.
Vines that have been exposed to bushfire smoke can develop a taint or flaw in the grapes which can lead to the smell or taste of smoke in the wine, often only becoming evident after the grapes have been through the fermentation and maturation process.The degree of taint in the grapes varies according to three factors:
- The density of smoke exposure
- The length time the vines are exposed to smoke
- And the most relevant one – the maturity of the grapes at the time of the exposure.
One positive we can take from these fires is that they occurred while the berries were still quite immature, which greatly limits the effect the smoke has on them. It is still unknown what level of taint, if any, our fruit may have developed, so we will be undertaking two important procedures to see if our grapes have been affected.
Firstly, just after veraison (the transition of berry growth to berry ripening displaying as the colour change in the grape skins), we will be doing an early ferment with a sample of grapes from each vineyard. The resultant wine will be subject to a professional organoleptic analysis to detect any smoke taint on the palate.
Secondly, we will send samples of this wine to the Australian Wine Research Institute laboratories for detection of the chemicals that cause smoke taint in wine. This is an important step as the taint is not always detectable on the nose or palate of the wine at this early stage, as sometimes it only develops as a wine matures, but the chemical is always present, even if the flavour is not.
These procedures will ensure that every bottle of Mike Press wine that we send to our customers will be 100% sound and free of taint.
We do not want to underestimate the shocking losses sustained in the Adelaide Hills, with significant damage to all horticultural areas and some people losing everything. Thankfully, there are many unaffected vineyards, orchards, wineries and business within the region, and I urge everyone to support this wonderful part of the world now and into the future. We are a strong community, and we will rebuild, but it is a slow process and your support is invaluable.