On April 1st (but definitely not a fool’s gag) Felton Road was granted 14th place in the World’s Most Admired Wine Brands by Drinks International. A team of over 200 wine professionals from 48 different countries vote on their choices which names the World’s top 50. It is the fifth year in which Felton Road has featured and it rose by 10 places. We are the top New Zealand winery on the ranking and are surpassed by only 3 French wineries: E Guigal, Chateau Lafite and Domaine de la Romanee Conti. Pretty rarified company! Of course we are both honoured and pleased. Most importantly for us, this is a vote by our peers in the global wine world.

And now, as they say, back to the main story:

Nigel's Harvest Blog 2021

8th April 2021

There is definitely a release of tension in the air on the picking side. There will be weather moving in on Saturday, but by then it will mostly be over. The teams are picking through the Elms Blocks now, Chardonnay is done and, somewhat curiously, Riesling isn’t ready yet. By Friday evening all the Pinot will be in, other than about ten tonnes of slightly recalcitrant MacMuir fruit.  The later clones at MacMuir: Abel, 828 and 943 are well able to benefit from a bit more hang time, so we are confident that the remaining MacMuir vines are in good shape for the fruit to ride the weather front, then come in next week with the Riesling.

It will be a full harvest as we had hoped: it’s been a few years now since we’ve actually produced the 12,500 cases the estate is designed to yield. But it won’t be over, just reassuringly on target. We’d been worried that Chardonnay would be low, but it came good: Because the Mendoza Chardonnay has a lot of small “chicken” berries, sometimes they just shrivel and we lose them, sometimes they stay small, but sometimes they do some late growth and this year the berry size has come back at the last minute.

The team has been perfect; it was always a potential worry that in these strange times, we’d be short, but the team were there for us and did a stellar job. Now there will be a chance for them all to relax, or to move on to the next winery, as suits their needs.

The winery quietens down; no need for a forklift until wines press-off in 2-3 weeks' time. It is the time for watching the bugs do their magic, to measure and soon, to start to taste. In just two weeks' time the first wines will be moving to barrel. By then the vineyard team will be finishing putting all the nets away and compost spreading will begin. The cycle starts again...

29th March 2021

We’ve been picking for a few days now. I’m watching from the other side of the world, but haven’t been posting the news because we need to really get a handle on the vintage to say much, and this year it has taken quite a while.

The first thing to say, and it is a big thing, is that this is the third vintage in a row where we have seen what we might call normality. No bizarre weather driving the vintage, no excessive heat, no shift in the growing season. Harvest started last week of March, which was normal for us, with coolish but stable weather, grapes were coming to ripeness without building excessive sugar, no significant disease pressure, in fact conditions that most would call ideal. Except we aren’t most and we often tend to be driven by our own paranoia. Vintage wouldn’t be vintage without anxiety!

So what is there to worry about? Berry sizes at Cornish Point have been on the large side. That actually makes me laugh. Berry sizes at Cornish Point have always tended to be generous, it is part of what others would describe as “our terroir”. But it gives us a chance to perform a saignee and make a few cases of Vin Gris. Fans of of this rare wine will rejoice. We haven’t actually made a Vin Gris since 2016. It is a by-product of larger berries where we free run some juice from the fermenter to bring the skin to juice ratio back to “normal”. The juice goes to make a ‘blanc de noirs’. Never quite blanc, hence Vin Gris.

Chardonnay is within a couple of pressloads of done. We had thought yields might be pitiful. The good news is they aren’t: they are merely semi-pitiful. Actually, on the scale from pitiful to plentiful, they are maybe about half way along the line. Which is better than 2020.

By the end of today, Cornish Point may be in, Calvert pretty much there, and the early nibbles of Pinot at MacMuir and Elms will be happening. Weather looking forward is as close to ideal as autumn weather ever gets, so we get to worry about the little things instead of impending doom.

It is still too early to have any insight as to fermentation. The wines are quietly working through their cold soaks. In the next day or so a big change will happen: as the team walk in to the winery in the morning, it will smell… of wine. That is a magic moment. Then the worry over grapes and harvest turns to a worry over the winemaking. What was game on for the vineyard team becomes game on for the winery team.

Am I missing  being there? You can guess just how much. Our 25th Vintage, my 21st. C’est la guerre.

Nigel and the team at Felton Road.

(Previous months blogs can be found in the link; Reviews & Stuff, Nigel Greening's Blog)