Winemaker's Comment - Autumn 2019

This season seems to have been one of the busiest in winemaking terms for some years. It isn’t that we are making more wine, or that the season has been particularly hard on us.  Really, it is self-inflicted and stems from an increased determination to wring every opportunity from the days we have. We rack through February, combining all the individual lots into their finished cuvées, but with vintages threatening to come earlier these days, March is flat out with cleaning, preparing barrels, and servicing equipment before the call goes out to start harvest. Several years ago, we were pretty sanguine about starting and finishing picking; not these days. Lengthy discussions and lost sleep are the norm as we want to nail the perfect start date. Too early and the first picks won’t sing, but hesitate, and the last grapes will be coming in riper than we’d like. The later picks may be impressive and bold, but they aren’t what we are looking for: we want absolute precision. 

Vintage 2018 was not good for my nerves. Relentless warm weather gave the tourists a treat, but Pinot does not like a suntan. We knew that heat before the fruit had formed wouldn’t matter, but as we watched the berries grow larger, the sun didn’t back down. Just as veraison (colour change) started, the critical ripening phase, a cold southerly blasted in and from then to harvest, it was cool and fresh; in fact the coolest run into harvest for 14 years. But how would the fruit react to such a roller-coaster ride? It was a welcome relief finally tasting through the individual components to realise that the warm summer period was completely tempered by the cool late season. It seems that this final month of ripening is really critical to the character and quality of the wines. Suffice to say, the 2018 wines are looking excellent: expressive of their sites, lovely textures and harmoniously balanced. 

So, without much time to catch our breath, it was straight into vintage 2019 at the end of March. The growing season was by and large normal, with the exception of a touch of frost damage in the spring; along with our first ever hail damage in mid-summer.  Thankfully, yields were only affected slightly and quality was unaffected by these events. The thick skins, beautifully balanced fruit and promising signs throughout the vinification process, suggests its going to be an exciting year. The 2019 harvest was also fast: 11 days of picking over 12 days. Our determination to catch the fruit ‘à point’ meant we couldn’t dally. It inevitably led to frantic times in the vineyards and cellars, but theres much relief, not to mention satisfaction, in knowing that we did all we could to make focused, detailed and elegant wines. Then the moment vintage ends, it’s time to start to bottle the 18’s!

Along with being organic and biodynamic in our vineyards and farmland (which we commenced back in 2002), we have always been strongly focused on a range of sustainability initiatives. Recently, we installed 32kw of solar panels on the north facing winery roof, as our electricity usage profile almost perfectly matches the available solar radiation in Central Otago. In the heat of a sunny Bannockburn summer, we can feel better about the air-conditioning running in the offices and the cooling of the barrel cellars. With the purchase of our first electric vehicle; lightweight bottles; native plant restoration….our repertoire of sustainable practices continues to grow. 

Enjoy these new releases with the knowledge we are doing the best we can to be kind to our fragile planet.

Cheers 

Blair Walter

Winemaker

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