RESILIENCE: Lucas, Therese and Robert Fenwick are happy for visitors to enjoy their award-winning wines, and hope others will too.
RESILIENCE: Lucas, Therese and Robert Fenwick are happy for visitors to enjoy their award-winning wines, and hope others will too.

Producers crushed by smallest wine vintage in 13 years

TOURISM may be the silver lining for Southern Downs producers, following devastating news Australia has produced its smallest wine vintage in 13 years.

The latest figures from Wine Australia reveal the 2020 national winegrape crush of $1.52 million tonnes, equivalent to more than one billion litres of wine, was 13 per cent below the 10-year average of 1.75 million tonnes.

It’s a double whammy for the region’s primary alcohol producers as an August 3 beer tax hike is released, making it harder for brewers to break even.

Heritage Estate Wines co-owner Therese Fenwick said the Granite Belt winery was running at a 40 per cent decrease from previous years.

A devastating combination of drought, bushfires, and plagues have all threatened to crush spirits for the owners of the award-winning winery over the past year.

“The normal was completely disturbed,” Mrs Fenwick said.

“Not only were we affected by fire, but we also had plagues that started with deer — something we had never had before — then plagues of roos, grapevine caterpillars, a plague of rabbits, and birds who were really persistent.

“All the while buying what is taken for granted by trucking in water.”

For Mrs Fenwick, the lowest moment of 2020 came when she lost 60 veteran vines to drought.

“Those were 60 year-old vines with a very special flavour,” she said.

“They had roots way into the soil which bring up minerals just not tasted in the young vines.”

In the face of a possible crisis for the industry, Southern Downs mayor Vic Pennisi reassured winemakers that government was stepping in to support the region’s “critically important” asset.

SDRC already supported winemakers through industry partnerships with Granite Belt Wine Tourism (GBWT).

“It is the hook that entices people. If you have a palate for wine, you want to come here,” he said.

“I personally think we don’t sing our praise of the product loud enough.

“As far as I’m concerned we live in the greatest place on Earth, with the diversity of product and wine’s part of that.

“There’s work being done at all different levels of government right now.”

Cr Pennisi was also heartened by a recent tourist boon to the region, which he said had the power to hurtle producers into a hopeful future.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” he said.

“Sometimes good things come in small packages, a smaller vintage yield can see our local winemakers pay close attention to quality and distinct flavour.”

Tourism was something Mrs Fenwick too was hedging her bets on for 2021.

“We’re looking forward to the resurgence of tourism and how it’s getting back to how it used to be,” she said.

“I want Queenslanders to be proud the say we went to the Granite Belt for a holiday.

“It is our silver lining.”