Grape growers and vineyards hope to avoid further dent to yields

Brian Freeman says he's concerned about consumer perception of the 2020 vintage. Photo: Peter Guthrie
Brian Freeman says he's concerned about consumer perception of the 2020 vintage. Photo: Peter Guthrie

There's some anxiety surrounding this year's grape harvest in the Hilltops region.

The potential impact of smoke taint from the state's bushfires could put a further dent in yields, compounding the affect of drought, according to Hilltops Wine and Grape Producers president Peter Creyke.

Many local growers are sending grape samples to be analysed at the Australian Wine Research Institute in Adelaide, however it's unclear at this stage how significant the impact will be, or if there'll be any damage at all.

"What is concerning growers and vineyards is the impact of smoke haze over the Hilltops from the bushfires. Even though the closest bushfire was about 100km away there is a concern. There is a degree of uncertainly and anxiety over the region," Mr Creyke said.

Smoke taint isn't something growers can detect visually and its impact is hard to recognise until fermentation has begun.

Altitude, variety of grape and levels of ripeness can all play a factor. Mr Creyke said it's an issue which is new to many growers.

He also said rumours of potential damage are swirling around the industry.

"There's a lot anecdotal stories we're hearing. Some are saying we don't have much to worry about. Others are more extreme and dramatic. Only time will tell. It's likely to be somewhere in the middle."

Brian Freeman of Freeman Vineyards says he's more concerned about consumer perception of the 2020 vintage.

He started harvest on Friday.

"If people start to think that the 2020 vintage is all bad it's a real issue. It's really regions that are close to the source of the fire that have been impacted. These chemicals that come in smoke get degraded with ultra-violet light, so as they're travelling a distance from the fire they are getting degraded. We think we're pretty secure here," he said.

"This bit of rain over the last week has freshened things up, so we have good flavour and good sugar-acid balance. It'll make superb wine. It'll be a good year in terms of quality. We're confident we'll produce wine that don't have any problems."

Mr Freeman said he's had 40 to 50 per cent drop in yield due to the drought.