Bethany Wines 2020 Vintage Report

Making great wine during challenging times.


We always like to share an update on vintage and Bethany Wines’ 2020 vintage will go down as one of our more unusual. The 2020 should have be noteworthy as it marks the 39thvintage for Bethany Wines. In addition to this milestone, we’ll remember this as the vintage we made wine during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

When is vintage?

Vintage is the time of the year when we harvest grapes and usually starts sometime in early February. Depending on the weather, our vintage can run from 6 to 8 weeks. Once the grapes are picked, they’re brought to the winery and the production of our 2020 vintage wines begins.

The lead-up

The conditions leading up to Vintage 2020 were very warm and very dry. We had very little rain during the winter, and it was dry in the summer months leading up to vintage. With those conditions, we were expecting very low yields and a short, sharp vintage.

In February our two workers arrived to help Alex for vintage. Liam came from Ontario, Canada for his (first) vintage in Australia. He’d most recently been working in the Niagara region in Canada. Cecilia was from Tuscany in Italy. She’d most recently been in Chile to work vintage and this was also her first Australian vintage.As we waited patiently for the grapes to be ripe for picking, we did all the jobs to make sure the winery was ready. Cleaning tanks, pumps and hoses might not be the most fun jobs. But they’re the jobs we need to do to ensure we make the best quality wine.

We also ordered lovely new French and American oak barrels. And most importantly, we made regular visits to the vineyards to see how the fruit was developing. We also consider how we’ll handle each parcel of fruit as it comes into the winery based on how it's developing.

First Pick

Our first pick on 12 February 2020 was the Homestead Chardonnay, just below the cellar door. We use this in the First Village Chardonnay and it’s often the first grape we pick. This is because Chardonnay is an early ripener. So given the warm Barossa climate, we need to pick it early so it keeps its freshness, acid and vibrancy.

Our first red pick was a couple of weeks later on 27 February. We picked Shiraz from the Lot 22 block across the road from the Homestead. We always expect to pick Shiraz first, but which block depends on how the flavours are developing.

Bethany Wines 2020 vintage Chardonnay


8 weeks of picking and processing

2020 will definitely be a vintage to remember. While the best stories are often when things go wrong in the winery such as jammed pumps, broken cooling systems and crushing by night, fortunately not too much went wrong this year.

COVID-19 made things interesting, especially when the Barossa was forced to go into a virtual lock-down. While we had to close our cellar door, we could keep our winemaking operations going by introducing some strict physical distancing Luckily this is not too hard to do in an outdoor winery.

The very dry season meant grapes ripened quickly. The yields were low, but this is good for quality, with more skin (colour and flavour) relative to juice making the wines more concentrated. But while this can be a good thing, we needed to be careful to make sure we didn’t over-extract the wine.

We’re really excited about the Shiraz this year. It looks exceptional. But so does the Chardonnay and Riesling, which is unusual for such a warm dry year.

And now we wait

Once all the wines have completed malolactic fermentation, we add sulphur. The wines are then back to barrel for the winter, and our winemaking team can breathe a sigh of relief.

We’ll bottle the Riesling at the end of the May, and the Rose not too long after that. The first reds to be bottled will be the Grenache or GSM in early 2021.

And while the peak of vintage might be over, there is still work to do. We need to take care of the wines going through malolactic fermentation. We’ll fine tune and rack the wines once they finish and put them back to oak.

We need to ensure the barrels stay full, safe and cool over the next couple of months. Then we’ll bring them all out in spring to rack them back out of barrel and return them. This helps to clarify the wines, let’s them breathe a little and gives Alex and the family a chance to re-assess a homogenous sample rather than just barrel by barrel.

No-one could have expected that we’d be wrapping up vintage in the middle of a global pandemic with the Barossa pretty much in lock-down. Fortunately, a skilled team and positive attitude got us through a challenging year.