Winemaker’s Comment – Spring Newsletter 2011
Springtime at the vineyard in Central Otago is such a special time of year for many reasons. First of all, it’s no longer winter and in Central Otago that’s quite a blessing.
After all the browns of turned soil, leafless vines and trees, vine prunings and dry hills; spring finally delivers a burst of colour with fruit tree blossoms, emerging cover crops between the vine rows, poplar trees back in leaf, a green tinge across the hillsides and most importantly, the first emerging vine leaves. The melting snow high on the mountains forms cloaks of brown and white stripes that add further contrast. Our chickens are back properly on the lay and the goats are kidding, giving some of us extra parental duties feeding and caring for the waifs and strays that won’t survive the rigours of hill life this early in the year. Vegetable gardens are readied for spring planting and frost fighting equipment is thoroughly checked. It’s also a time to reflect on the previous year and enjoy the slower pace of early spring before the vineyard growth gets more frantic as the temperatures slowly warm.
In the winery, the 2011 Rieslings are bottled and the 2011 Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs begin to wake up from their winter hibernation. Open the cellar doors to the spring air and their malolactic fermentations miraculously start with the warmer temperatures and the naturally occurring malolactic bacteria. This transforms the wine from the harsher and green tasting malic acid to the softer, plusher lactic acid while also delivering additional complexity along the way. Spring also signals the beginning of a whole new vintage: the results of which we won’t be tasting for at least 12 months and in the case of the Pinot Noirs, over 18 months. For us, the prospect of another vintage is a mixture of excitement and nerves: hope, but also apprehension as to how the next growing season is going to unfold. Every year is different, but it is through our steadily building experience and hard work in the vineyard that we learn how best to plan for the vagaries of the weather and how to coax the best from the vines. We only get one chance per year to make wine and the decisions that count are often made months before harvest.
Finally, we’re mostly finished with our travels visiting customers around New Zealand and the world and have more time to enjoy the wonderful outdoor opportunities that abound in Central Otago. We’re pleased to be releasing the first of the 2011 wines and the last of the excellent 2010’s. We trust you enjoy them and join us in a toast to springtime.