2020: where to begin? November brought high winds and a cold snap at flowering which affected fruit set. This was followed by extreme heat and the fires in December and January. We coped by watering like crazy, but when the skies darkened with smoke, I feared we were going to lose everything to smoke taint. Then quite unexpectedly came heavy rain and hail in late January. Great for the pastoralists and bushfire ravaged communities, but not ideal for vines we'd just netted. Someone told me locusts were on the move in inland NSW. And then the Jamieson River turned to blood.
Look, I know. It was probably just red soil eroded from the burnt-out bush upstream. But as The Reader of a couple of doctrinally questionable earlier POSTS may remember, when things get weird I turn to The Good Book. So, flip to Exodus 7. Ticking them off: River turns to Blood, Skies darken, Fire, Hail, Locusts. Flies? Well, there are always flies. No Lice that I've noticed. No Boils really, either, though come to think of it I did get a kind of a boil on my arm after my flu shot. At least we haven't seen plagues of frogs, but hang on, this summer we've had an awful lot of snakes. Could they have been eating them? Just watch out for Pestilence.
In the end we did manage to pick grapes. It wasn't our usual kind of vintage celebration. Avoiding large gatherings even before the law required it, six of us worked our socially distanced way through the vineyard in the last week of March. Three tests of small batch ferments all came back with no taint detected (it seems old smoke really isn't anything like as bad as fresh smoke) but the crop was much reduced. Fiddly to pick with lots of little bunches and small berries but perhaps for that very reason the wine we ended up making has wonderfully concentrated fruit and excellent acidity. The trick will be persuading people to risk a 2020 Pinot from North East Victoria after all the media coverage about smoke taint.
Virus Willing we'll wait it out and see what we get. Good wines are produced in small quantities. And Pinot is famously temperamental. It has extreme mood swings from year to year*.
*Not me. Madeleine Triffon. I wish I'd said it but it was her.