The Barossa wine industry has faced another challenging vintage in 2020, with yields at least 50% below the 10-year average.

The positive news is quality is high, and Barossa’s in-short-supply wines will remain in strong demand on the domestic and international wine scene.

Barossa’s reduced yield is due to another below-average rainfall winter and spring, temperamental spring weather – and a hot, dry December and early January.

Barossa Valley
The growing season started dry and continued that way. The January to June 2019 rainfall was 60% of average. Winter 2019 rain was more promising with 148mm (88% of average), but spring 65mm (54%) and summer 40mm (74%) didn’t follow up on the promise. March recorded only 2.8mm (11%) of rain.

The 2019 calendar year was the driest on record for the Nuriootpa weather station.

In some parts of Barossa, flowering was upset by a frost on 18 October. In early November flowering wine grapes endured a period of strong winds, followed by many cold nights through mid-November (day and night temperatures 1 to 1.5 degrees below average). Then in late November, extremely hot weather affected later flowering areas and varieties, notably the 42-degree day on 20 November.

A hot December followed. Of the last 16 days in December, 11 were over 35C and 8 over 40C.

Not surprisingly, the combination of all these extremes meant the vines generally set below average bunch size, and berries remained smaller than normal as they developed.

Later January and February provided some relief. Average February maximum temperature was 26.5C – 3C below average, with average minimum temperature 13.4C, which is 1.2C below the average. This, combined with 21mm of rain on 1 February, enabled many vineyards to slowly ripen their grapes, with flavour and phenological ripening keeping pace with sugar development.

Yields varied from vineyard to vineyard and variety to variety, but most are well below average, with indications the region could be 50% below ‘normal’.

The good news is flavours and colours (in reds) and the overall quality is exceptional. Early standout varieties include Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet.

Eden Valley
Rainfall in Eden Valley for winter 2019 totalled 249mm, slightly higher than winter 2018’s total of 226mm. The 2019 total was just 7% below average. However, rainfall totals dropped significantly through spring, reaching only 63% of the long-term average. This trend continued into summer, with growing season rainfall amounting to 125mm, or 67% of average, which was the driest growing season since 2009.

October 2019 recorded a mean maximum temperature 2.18°C warmer than average, whilst December was 3.79°C warmer than average. The October high was driven by a number of days above 30°C, which is unusual for that time of year.

December recorded 9 days where the mercury exceeded 35°C, in two separate heatwave events lasting 5 and 4 days respectively. 20 December recorded a stifling 42°C, and it was the hottest December on record.

February in Eden Valley was unusually cool, with the average maximum temperature of 24.1C being 2.9°C below average.  The wines are of exceptional quality. Whites, particularly Riesling and Chardonnay are fine and intense. Reds are deeply coloured and perfumed.

Report prepared by Barossa Grape & Wine Association, in partnership with Yalumba viticulturist Brooke Howell and Yalumba head of winemaking Louisa Rose.

For further information contact:
Nicki Robins
Viticultural Development Officer
Barossa Grape & Wine Association

mob: 0426 252 396