Winemaker Brian McGuigan usually hires 45 contractors to help pick grapes during harvest, but so far, he only has one prepared to help.
“We’re down on pickers for two reasons, firstly because backpackers haven’t been coming to Australia,” Mr McGuigan said.
“Secondly, we can’t encourage enough Australians to get off their tails and come give us a hand.”
It means the old fashioned and preferred way of doing things might need to be scaled back in many vineyards.
“Machines can do a good job, in fact they are going to be used more and more extensively this year because simply we don’t have the grape pickers to do it,” Mr McGuigan added.
That’s a last resort at Tyrell’s in Pokolbin, where some of the vines were planted in the 1800s.
“We’ve got some of the oldest vineyards in the world and they really need to be looked after pretty tenderly and handpicked,” owner Bruce Tyrell said.
“We’ve got about a third of the pickers we need and that’s pretty much right across the Valley.”
Mr Tyrell estimates more than 500 people will be needed to help all the region’s vineyards get their grapes to the crusher in time.
“I think everyone will remember 2020, for three or four months we were shrouded in smoke and a lot of people lost their vintage,” he said.
“We can’t afford to lose two out of three, everyone will go dry they’ll be nothing to drink.”
The industry is pleading for anyone to come and help, for good money.
“If anyone out there is looking for four, five, six weeks of work come here straight away, we really do need that,” Mr Tyrell said.
“Everyone is pretty much going to be looking for pickers, so it won’t take more than a call or two to get a spot.”