Overall, a very kind year with dry, warm conditions.
The growing season began a week or so later than usual with typically unreliable Spring conditions, and we experienced several mornings where temperatures dipped below zero, resulting in small pockets of scattered frost damage in our Outpost and H171 Vineyards.
As Spring progressed to Summer, it was obvious our potential crop levels were historically large, i.e. they were enormous! Some blocks were thinned pre-flowering, and the remaining blocks as the fruit got close to veraison. Very dry conditions through to Christmas with average temperatures meant relatively leisurely vine growth and we anticipated a later than normal harvest. Flowering was notable for being very successful – i.e. lots of berries, but also taking a long time to finish.
However, as we got to February the beautiful Marlborough sun seemed to shine a little brighter than usual. 30 degree days were common, with warm nights, and this very warm pattern continued through to the beginning of harvest in mid-March. The vines had caught up and we started picking right around the average dates.
Harvest of Pinot Noir for both table wine, and Rose, and Sauvignon Blanc for Easy Tiger began first. Pinot Noir was picked with excellent concentration and low crop levels, with almost all Pinot Noir picked in March. Continuing warm and dry conditions planted the seed of doubt that acid would drop off for later harvested fruit. Just about then we had a good solid rain event that soaked into the parched ground like a sponge. Night temperatures started dropping, and we noticed stressed vines beginning to recover. It’s not common to want rain during harvest, but we were very happy to get a good soaking in late March.
After a few days we resumed picking, and with more moderate temperatures were happy to see the sugar and acid balance of the grapes was excellent. A noticeable pick up in flavours for Sauvignon Blanc was also evident and the main push of picking Sauvignon Blanc began. The hard work of fruit thinning paid off with great flavour and balance. New presses allowed us to harvest faster when required and we used the option of inert gas pressing to control oxidation of the juice.
April also was very kind, with one small rain event early on, then every day was sunny, still and with cool nights. Basically perfect.
The aromatic varieties ripened very well with excellent flavours, the Riesling in particular achieving very good ripeness while retaining its acid freshness.
Although it is very early we can see a few obvious characteristics from the vintage. The Sauvignon Blanc looks very fresh and vibrant, the Pinot Noir has a real mix of flavours with more cherry influence than usual, the Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer have a lovely spicy ripeness, with the Riesling having less lemon/lime and more stone fruit characters than we usually see. Chardonnay remains strong and consistent, and similar to Riesling, a little less citrus, and more of the stonefruit flavour spectrum.