Winemakers' Vintage Fears Revealed

By Georgia Spanos

12 Jun, 2019

Vintage is the most anticipated time of year for winemakers, and emotions remain high as the season continues. Although plenty of potential risks can be foreseen, assessed and managed, the unexpected is always present.

We speak closely with a handful of winemakers live on the fields, from various climates and parts of Australia, to discover the fears that they share during this exhilarating time.

  1. 1) Warm Nights in the Clare Valley

"In the Clare Valley, we typically see a high diurnal temperature range, meaning the vines get some overnight respite from the blistering daytime sun. This helps to slow the ripening process and helps build refined and elegant flavours in the resulting wines. When nights are warm we see grapes ripening faster than expected, and it becomes a race to get the fruit off the vines and into the winery ASAP." – Kirby Graudins, Kilikanoon Wines

sunrise, fear

  1. 2) Wild conditions in Tasmania

"Tasmania is a wild and harsh land with more soil types and aspects than any other state of Australia. Our grapes risk the wrath of Mother Nature every day though the very long ripening period. We have faced cold, heat, wind, fire and drought. I believe when the fruit survive this it can create complexity and uniqueness that is unrivalled. Viticulture and oenology is fraught with danger, but it will never get boring, and I will never master it. I wouldn’t have it any other way." – James Broinowski, Small Island Wines

vineyard, tasmania

  1. 3) Brown Snakes in the Barossa Valley

"Having an early stroll out through the vineyards this morning, sampling a few berries to see where they are up to, whilst pondering the potential onset of Vintage 2019 Barossa – next thing, out the corner of the eye, movement is noticed. I look across to the next row of vines and old mate brown snake slithers across this way, then turns and heads off the other way, in search of either mice or water. Just remember – we say to ourselves – it is only the third most venomous snake on the face of the Earth. Thank goodness it is not the most venomous. The things you do and see, to make great wine." – Stuart Bourne, Soul Growers

Brown Snake

  1. 4) Rainfall in the Swan District

“Rain, rain, rain. Our grenache is very susceptible to rain. It has a very low tolerance if it gets wet too close to harvest. Thankfully, a massive tick for Vintage 2019." – Ryan Sudano, Mandoon Estate


  1. 5) Frost in the Adelaide Hills

“Being one of the coolest vineyards in the Adelaide Hills, winemakers and viticulturists fear frost, especially in the early stages of budburst. We had a number of frost events in the Adelaide Hills this vintage. Fortunately, our state-of-the-art frost protection system (an automated sprinkler system) helps protect us at Sidewood when temperatures dip below zero degrees overnight.” – Steve Dundon, Sidewood Estate


  1. 6) Smoke Taint in the Granite Belt

“A fear that I have is smoke taint caused by bushfires. We have just experienced it here – seven days of what I would say was fairly-heavy smoke. The smoke gets into the grape skins, and this year I made the call to just produce white and rosé. Smoke needs ongoing research, and risk assessment is what made this decision. The weather dishes up conditions that are out of our hands. It’s just not just smoke though, and just us, we’ve experienced hail and wind pollination too.” – Andy Williams, Hidden Creek Winery

smoke taint

  1. 7) Sugar Consumption in the Nagambie Lakes

"I love the anticipation and excitement that occurs in the lead up and over the duration of vintage. The ability to assess and make decisions on the run is the essence of winemaking during harvest time. I do fear the dentist visit straight after vintage although. After tasting so many juices and wines during the course of vintage, it can take its toll." – Andrew Santarossa, Mitchelton Wines

Mitchelton, Vintage

Learn all there is to know about the 2019 Australian Wine Vintage with our dedicated vintage page here.