“The Premiership Quarter”: View From The 2020 Harvest


As we enter the final quarter of the year, Justin Knock, Master of Wine Oeno’s Chief Wine Analyst reports live from the 2020 harvest on what has been a season of mixed blessings for winemakers and investors alike:

“As many of us know from business and life, this is the time of the year to bring home the bacon for all the year’s preparation. We come back to work with renewed vigour and determination to see the year out strongly, if nothing else to make the celebrations at the end all the more worthy. In Australian football terms this is called The Premiership Quarter because it’s determines the champions from the pretenders.

“The annual grape harvest, what winemakers call simply ‘vintage’ in short-hand, is the epitome of hard- work. This year I am once again working on a harvest project in France and over the space of a couple of weeks I have driven nearly 5000km visiting vineyards and tasting ferments, putting in back-to-back 12-19 hour days without break. It is exhausting but satisfying work.

“Last week we spent 6 hours pressing two tanks of wine (after a 700km drive) and rustled up a dinner of sausages and steak cooked over a smouldering fire and a raging thunderstorm. We enjoyed a bottle of great Syrah hunched on the floor of the cellar and it was one of my most satisfying meals of the year. I’ve been so busy this month that I’m literally putting the final touches on this report as I’m pressing a mighty fine parcel of Shiraz.

“In keeping with the pattern of 2020, the growing season has been filled with numerous challenges in Europe. Across much of the continent the spring was incredibly wet bringing incredible pressure from Downy mildew to many, and ballooning yields for others. Normally winemakers welcome the occasional bumper harvest, but with many cellars still well stocked with 2019s (thanks to the economic impacts of COVID-19), a bountiful crop is not as welcome this year.

“One of the marvellous benefits of the virus lockdown this year is that vignerons, who increasingly spend months a year on the road promoting their wines, have instead been at home and able to spend many more hours in their vineyards. It has been needed, but I’ve not heard a complaint from any of them.”

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