Winemaker's Comment - Autumn 2018

 

With the last several weeks of typical, cool Central Otago autumn weather and spectacular colours, one can almost forget the astonishingly warm spring and summer that we experienced this season. By the end of January we were beginning to get seriously worried for the quality and style of the wines after the warmest summer on record.  Suddenly, on February 3, just after temperatures were peaking at 39°C, we had snow low on the hills surrounding the vineyard and just 4°C! It was as if somebody turned on the switch for March/April weather to commence in February. Normally this would be a serious concern, but as we were so well advanced with the season, the coolest and wettest February since 2004, turned out to be a real saviour for vintage 2018. Because of the extremely dry conditions in the months preceding, the wet February did not cause any notable disease issues or excessive swelling, but thankfully, assisted with slowing the ripening process.  A cooler ripening period is a major contributor to the unique character and quality of Central Otago wines so we were very grateful and very relieved to see the change. Our contingency plans of rented chillers, extra picking baskets and pickers; to gather the fruit more quickly and earlier in the day, in the end were not needed.

The vintage started on February 28 and was complete by March 20. Never having picked this early before, we brought the fruit in over a three week period to present a range of physiological ripeness levels in order to try to further understand the optimal “sweet spot” for ripeness. This range of ripeness that we are talking about is actually now quite a focussed band: 22 vintages have helped forge our understanding and appreciation for  appropriate maturity levels. Our early appraisals of the 2018 wines suggest that they are on track to evolve into some exciting wines.

While we wait for the 2018’s to mature and reveal their vintage personality, the 2017’s that we are now releasing are from an equally intriguing season. A warm start to the season resulted in flowering occurring normally in early December but was punctuated by some cool and unsettled weather that reduced the fruit set and eventual yield. The remainder of the summer was cooler and unsettled but, being so far south, we fortunately escaped the untimely and severe weather systems that affected parts of the country. The cooler ripening period, small berries and naturally low yields have resulted in some very profound wines. Our increased attention to precision and elegance means that the wines concentration does not result in the big and broody wines we might have made a decade ago. The depth of fruit is supported by a purity and a well-defined framework which leads us to consider them amongst our very best. The only problem is the lower quantities: although we have done our best to allocate sufficient stocks to our mail order customers.

That’s the end of the weather, now some news! In early November, we celebrated the release of our 20thvintage: the 2016’s, with two days of events at the winery. We opened dozens of bottles across the 20 vintages, offered barrel tastings, sit-down masterclasses and delicious tasty treats. We had a great turn-out over the two days and it was gratifying to share all these bottles and quality time with so many loyal and dedicated customers. We’re not sure when the next one will be but there has been a pattern of celebrating every 5 years – watch this space!

We hope you enjoy these new releases from the special 2017 vintage.

Cheers 

Blair Walter

Winemaker

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