Winemaker’s Comment – Autumn Newsletter 2013

By now you may have heard various comments about the 2013 “vintage of a lifetime”. What’s our take on this? Well, certainly if we were trying to define what would make a “perfect” vintage for us, then we’d be describing something very similar: warm, but not scorching; a pleasing period of some coolness and regular rain events keeping the vines in balance following a flawless flowering; a dry run into vintage with the weather cooling and steadying a touch as the last few days of ripening settle in; picking perfect fruit from a healthy green canopy with cooler weather holding the fruit just “a point”. We would have to say that this is the closest to a theoretically perfect vintage we have seen (though the warm nights produced some changes to the fruit that are a little out of the usual slot). But what of the wine such a vintage produces?

Obviously, it will be good. But we have a slight uneasiness creeping in, because in truth, most of our favourite wines were made in decidedly imperfect vintages. Perhaps it is the extra sweetness that comes from a victory won by timely calls and decisive action when the chips are down, but I think there’s more to it than that. Great wines tell a story, and “yeah, it was perfect all the way” isn’t that flash a narrative. So, we’re excited but certainly not joining in the hysteria, for now at least. 2012 is going to set a pretty high bar for it to beat.

2012 was tricky at times (nothing compared to much of New Zealand, though we still had some challenges) but we were always on the front foot in decision-making, culminating in a harvest almost two weeks ahead of many of our neighbours around Bannockburn. This was more than a little unnerving at the time, but the results have been nothing less than thrilling to us. The earlier pick has lent elegance and deftness, but the underlying muscle ripples below, reassuring the taster that there is serious power behind the purity. Best of all, the vineyard characters are shining through with crystalline expression. These wines inspired us to pick earlier again this year and try to catch that elusive vivacity once more.

This vintage was Michael’s second in the winery and he’s steadily finding his feet. I find that something of a mixed blessing because I have to admit that I quite enjoy the need to get my hands dirty more than usual because I have a new assistant to work in. The need to explain everything and justify it is also a valuable challenge to myself as it reminds me that our habits are just that: habits not absolutes, and I need to consider if they are still valid.

 This year we are piloting the use of lightweight glass (though our existing glass is already lightweight by many people's standards). Our carbon footprint through the rest of our production cycle is so low that glass represents over 50% of our total viticulture and winemaking footprint.  These bottles should knock about 15% off our carbon footprint. We would very much like to hear feedback from you all on this as the wine sells through, as we will need to make longer term decisions as to market preparedness to accept fine wines in lighter weight glass. It obviously has no affect on quality or longevity of the wine, it is simply a more efficient container and gets the weight of a case under 15kg, which is now a “lifting limit” for female workers in many countries.

We trust you enjoy the wines.


Blair Walter