Vintage Report 2020
Friday 6th March
Thursday 23rd of April
185 tonne processed
Summer 19/20 was mild with a distinct gap between whites and reds. This eased pressure to pick and meant the fruit ripened slowly in our Mount Benson vineyard. Coonawarra and Wrattonbully had a few warm days in late February which meant, as is normally the case, theirs was the first fruit processed at Cape Jaffa, our En Soleil Pinot Gris from Koch's Wrattonbully vineyard. With less contract processing this year because most of those grapes were sold to struggling producers impacted by fire, lack of water or hail we were able to take our time which resulted in our reds having more time on skins. Yields were down, which left us no choice but to make less. This is especially true for our single vineyard wines such as our La Lune and En Soleil ranges. Low yields were due to cool temperatures at flowering and moisture at cap fall* preventing the caps from falling off. As this was the case in many regions the best value for quality will come from smaller family owned wineries. Wind on the coast naturally regulates for lower yields and helps with disease pressure. With the little summer rains that we naturally get here there was no disease in the vineyard and fruit was picked clean. Sugar ripened first followed by tannin and flavour. Acids held well because of an early and strong Bonney Upwelling*. But as is usually the case there is an inverse correlation between yield and quality. So, although we picked less, the quality of the fruit was very impressive. Half an inch of rain at veraison* helped the berries colour up quickly and evenly. This rain event coincided with the moon opposing Saturn which is when we sprayed our biodynamic preparations 500 and 501* and the response in the vines was immediate. The geographical isolation of the Limestone Coast meant that the only real impact of the Rona was the barrel salesman stayed away, the pub was shut and there was a bottle of hand-sani on the forklift.
Once flowering occurs low temperatures will delay opening and this often results in retention of the caps. Usually at flowering the cap will be shed exposing the anthers and pistil which allow pollination. Lower rates of pollination due to cap retention will reduce yields.
The Bonney Upwelling is a phenomenon that has a considerable impact on our climate at Mount Benson during our summer ripening period. Cool deep water from the Southern Ocean is bought to the surface near the coast through submarine channels. This process encourages cooling afternoon breezes which keep our temperature consistent and lengthens our ripening period which aids in developing more complex flavours in our fruit.
Veraison is the onset of ripening which is observed by the colour of the grapes starting to change.
*500 and 501
500 Horn Manure works on the soil and roots to stimulate microbial activity, root development, and regulate PH. 501 Horn Silica complements 500 and is sprayed on the vines. It promotes vertical growth, plant vigour and reduces susceptibility to diseases.
"With our abundant access to ground water, consistent mild summers and huge diurnal swing during the ripening period. I would not want to grow grapes anywhere else." - Steve Brown, 2020 Winemaker
Cape Jaffa solar installation
Cape Jaffa Wines made a huge step towards meeting their sustainability mantra with the installation of 297 solar panels on their winery roof with a capacity of 81KW. Coupled with 96x 400Ah lithium battery cells to store power for use on those odd days (and nights) when the sun isn’t shining, this is expected to create an emissions savings of about 60 CO2e per year.
‘Our sustainability conscience has certainly led us on a journey of discovery, and a journey that I feel is a perpetual one’. Back in 2009, the company began to recognise the fact that running a certified organic and biodynamic vineyard created a degree of expectation from customers that this meant the business was ‘green’. ‘While there are many aspects of what we were doing in the vineyard that can be considered environmentally friendly, to truly be ‘green’ means so much more than running a biodynamic vineyard’. Cape Jaffa has taken a more holistic approach to sustainability recognising weak spots, priority areas and risks across the entire business and working to continually improve on these.
The winery has grappled with the fact that out on the Cape they are distanced from the national three-phase power grid which supplies the necessary current for most winery equipment. To date they have relied on load matched diesel generators for their three-phase power requirements. Although the company were early adopters of solar technology in the office and Cellar Door area, to make use of solar power generation in the winery they either needed to store power or have the support of a three-phase grid connection. For a long time this has not been considered economically viable for the business and they were unsuccessful in a number of Government grant applications for renewable energy due to this unique situation. Its only now that the cost of both solar and battery storage have come down, that the business case has stacked up.
Another challenge facing all wineries, is that the production process is tied to grape supply which is of course based on a perennial cycle. Therefore there are typically big peaks in usage especially at vintage time due to the large scale equipment used for processing and refrigeration. This adds another challenge to obtaining a pay back on an investment, especially when there is no grid to feed back into if supply outweighs demand.
To better understand energy efficiency, Cape Jaffa went through the process of a detailed energy audit. Although the audit was supported by a government grant, there was no funding available to invest in the improvements recommended. Reducing usage, and in particular peak loads, became the focus and substantial savings were achieved through a number of changes to our process. ‘We began co-inoculating for secondary fermentation to reduce our requirements to warm wines and we moved away from traditional cold stabilisation’. ‘Over time we have waited patiently for pricing on solar panels and battery based storage come down to the point that its now economical for us in its own right, even without the assistance of grants.’
The pay back in investment may not be the shortest one but this decision was made by a family with a long term view in mind. ‘We expect that the system will mean we can run a carbon neutral operation for nine months of the year and will occasionally run a diesel back-up generator to top up our power supply when required during vintage’.
Cape Jaffa has been recognised over and over for their sustainability efforts, winning three consecutive Advantage SA awards for sustainability, and subsequently being admitted to the Sustainability Hall of Fame in 2011. They were awarded an Australia Day Award back in 2012 by Robe Mayor Peter Risely for Corporate Contribution to the Environment. This award to recognised their conservation projects outside the business including weed removal on both McIntyre Reserve and the islands of Baudin Rocks. Cape Jaffa Wines also received a certificate of Merit in the South Australian Wine Industry Environmental Excellence Awards and Anna Hooper was runner up in an international event run by the Drinks Business UK for ‘Green personality of the Year’.
Cape Jaffa would like to acknowledge the tremendous support of Zen Energy, who supplied the lithium battery system. The installation itself was completed by local electrician Anthony Moore and his team at Robe Electrical. Derek Hooper has been involved in off-grid systems since he built an off grid, wind powered house on the Cape Jaffa property back in the late 90’s. The family home, out on a windswept hill near Cape Jaffa, was designed for a family of six plus the odd guest, has been off-grid and solar and wind powered since it was built in 2005. Derek’s first-hand experience includes importing battery systems into Australia and his wealth of knowledge on this subject has been integral to the implementation of this project.
The 2015 vintage started two weeks earlier than the previous five year average which felt very early. While the timing of budburst was about on par with expectations, temperatures in Spring were consistently above average and soils were very dry. Weather conditions closer to harvest were very steady, with only three days above 35⁰C.
Yields varied across the region with some vineyards cropping slightly heavier than average and others reporting lower yields, albeit an improvement on last year by all accounts. Despite the early start, the heavier cropping vineyards ripened later in the season, meaning harvest lagged into cooler weather at the end of the season and finished about on time. A continuation of dry conditions throughout the season meant all vineyards were free from any disease issues.
The slow steady finish to the season rewarded us, especially in our coastal vineyards of Mount Benson. Both Cabernet and Shiraz are looking incredibly strong with bright fruit, silky tannins and great intensity. Expectations are that the wines from this vintage will evolve to be amongst the region’s best yet. Sauvignon blanc and Pinot gris are also looking excellent with very good natural acidity. Shiraz from both Wrattonbully and Mt Benson have beautifully elegant cool climate aromas but at the same time carry great intensity of flavour.
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