This is an email I received from the Chief Winemaker at the Hunter Valley's iconic Mount Pleasant winery. It has a cellar door that's in my TOP 5 to visit. Spectacular wines at very reasonable prices .
Living so close we've visited the Hunter three times over the last few months showing visiting family and friends around. So we've experienced the smoke and witnessed the struggling vines.
On top of all that the parent company McWilliams recently went into receivership.
"As most of you would be very aware, Australia has been gripped by the worst bushfires in living memory. Many parts of Australia have suffered, with people losing their homes, their livelihoods and worse still, the loss of life. This is an absolute tragedy for all of those affected, and one which we offer our sincerest sympathies and condolences. Here in the Hunter, we were surrounded by bushfire, initially from the fires near Taree, and then closer to home with the Brokenback ranges ablaze with close to 1,000,000 hectares burnt out. With these fires smoke blanketed much of the region for nearly 3 months. Only recently have we begun to see clear skies and some much needed rain.
The smoke that covered the region has not been great. Constant exposure over a period can result in the vines absorbing these compounds, which bind to the sugar molecules which are released upon fermentation. We have sent many samples off for testing with Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), Vintessential Laboratories and we had installed measurement devices in our Lovedale vineyard courtesy of LaTrobe University. We have also been conducting micro ferments in our lab, taking representative samples of many of our blocks and fermenting them to see if we could detect taint in the fruit before picking.
With all the knowledge we have gathered through laboratory and sensory analysis of our Estate, Rosehill and Lovedale Vineyards, coupled with the third-party test results we have recieved, the difficult decision to not pick any grapes for Vintage 2020 has been made.
This painstaking choice was not made lightly. If we were to pick these grapes and make wine from them, we could not guarantee the wine to be of the highest quality and of the standards we set ourselves. We have nearly a century of history at Mount Pleasant and vines almost 140 years old, and with this comes the responsibility to ensure that we uphold the highest integrity when making wine for you. We will not compromise on quality or take any unnecessary risks when it comes to this.
Grape tests have been carried out across the whole of the Hunter Valley. While we are unsure how other producers have been affected, there are likely scenarios where there are clean grapes in other pockets of the region. We hopeful that other vineyards have been more fortunate and not have seen the levels of exposure our vineyards have.
We look forward to seeing you in the future and trust our relationships will only strengthen with this over the coming years. Please do not hesitate to contact our team if you have any questions."