Tyrrell's family wine company abandons 2020 Hunter vintage amid concerns bushfire smoke spoils the harvest

TOUGH CALL: Tyrrell's Wines managing director Bruce Tyrrell. Picture: Simone De Peak
TOUGH CALL: Tyrrell's Wines managing director Bruce Tyrrell. Picture: Simone De Peak

The Tyrrell's family wine company, one of the Hunter Region's biggest producers, has virtually written off the 2020 Hunter Valley vintage because of bushfire smoke taint.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Tyrrell's managing director Bruce Tyrrell said the company had decided most of its vineyards would not be harvested for wine production and it would have a severely reduced 2020 vintage. Overall the drought and smoke taint would bring a grape crush 80 per cent below normal.

"This decision has been our own and reinforces our premium quality standing in the world of fine wine," Mr Tyrrell said. "As with any other year, any wine that we do bottle from the 2020 vintage will only be of a standard that the family deem befitting of our 162-year legacy."

As the drought continued, the grapes from affected vineyards would not go to waste and would be used as mulch and feed for the cattle on Tyrrell's properties.

There would be no flagship Vat 1 semillon, Vat 9 shiraz and Vat 47 this year, although Mr Tyrrell expects to be able to produce the premium Belford semillon and chardonnay whites. The company also anticipated producing its Heathcote and McLaren Vale label wines.

Smoke taint gives grapes - especially reds - burnt, smoky, medicinal or "dirty ash tray" characters that are reproduced in the wines.

Mr Tyrrell said Tyrrell's had not been directly impacted by bushfires but the continued smoke haze in the Hunter since late October meant that many of its vineyards had been affected by smoke taint.

The problem is being faced by other Hunter vignerons and Mr Tyrrell said numerous winegrowers were faced with no income this year and should be eligible for bushfire relief grants.

"The impact of smoke taint is not universal across the region," he said. "The Hunter Valley is a large geographical area and there were many factors to consider when making this decision including proximity to the fires, elevation of vineyards, and days in contact with fresh smoke.

"Tyrrell's has been working closely with the Australian Wine Research Institute, and Dr Ian Porter of La Trobe University, who have been testing our vineyards' grapes across the region for smoke taint."

"We have also been conducting micro-ferments in our own laboratory which has led us to the decision that most of our vineyards will not be harvested for wine production."

This story Tyrrell's Wines write off 2020 Hunter vintage after bushfire smoke taints the vine first appeared on Newcastle Herald.