A relatively cool start to the season made for a few nights on frost patrol but we were lucky and no real damage was done. The rest of spring & summer went very much according to plan with the accumulation of growing degree days (GDD) looking remarkably normal. Then after Xmas suddenly all the talk was of drought. This meant angst for the dairy farmers but big smiles for winegrowers – grape vines love the dry weather. The harvest kicked off on the 6th March (again very normal) for sparkling wine and the first of the table wine Pinot Noir was picked on the 21st March. Then ‘normality’ went out the window. A spell of warm weather in the last week of March combined with modest crop loads meant sugar levels started rising rapidly and quite suddenly we had a lot of grapes ready to pick. It was all hands to the pumps & presses throughout the Easter weekend & we kept going at full pace until we finished on the 12th April.
Along the way a number of records were broken – our highest daily grape intake (just over 10% of our entire crush in 1 day) and the shortest period of working through night shifts. We normally pick Sauvignon Blanc over a 22-26 day period but this year it was all picked in 16 days. Our Awatere River vineyard had quite a low crop and was picked in the middle of the harvest rather than at the end. This is where the efficient design of the winery really came into its own & our vintage crew all responded well and we ‘knocked it off’ with no issues. Eventually the rain came in late April but we were able to sleep soundly with all our grapes safely inside the winery.
What will this mean to the vintage 2013 wines? The Sauvignon blancs will be quite delightful with very attractive ripe tropical characters but still retaining that freshness and crispness the region is known for. Despite the hectic pace we still found time to press a small amount of Sauvignon direct to barrel for the first time – it will be exciting to see how this trial develops. Pinot Noir is looking good across the board with great fruit flavours and structure – it is now all safely put to rest over winter before waking up for malo in spring. Chardonnay was pressed directly to barrel again for a natural ferment and I’m particularly excited about 3 barrels of Chardonnay from the Awatere that look outstanding. Our young Gruner Veltliner vines had a full canopy this year and this has given us our first real look at how this variety will perform – it is showing a lot of promise. All in all it was a rushed but ultimately very satisfying vintage where good planning, good winery design and being able to react quickly as the harvest progressed paid dividends.