Winemaker's Comment - Autumn 2020

 

I’m used to breathing a hefty sigh of relief and satisfaction at this time of year: the harvest is safely in, fermentations have proceeded smoothly to completion, and the wines are comfortably tucked away in barrel for the Central Otago winter. And then came vintage 2020. A tsunami of relief and gratitude would be an understatement.

We had only just started picking when the country went into Level 4 Lockdown creating a lot of anxiety that we may not even be allowed to continue, or for how long, if the unthinkable were to happen and the spread of Covid-19 reached vineyard and winery teams. However, through our country’s quick reaction and commitment to strict protocols, along with the support of MPI and our industry bodies, we were able to implement critical procedures to safely continue. We split the picking team into two distinct bubbles to help minimise the risk if we did need to self-isolate. We also created a very distinct, secure winery team bubble: Larissa, Jordan and Harry camped at the winery for 6 weeks, while myself, my assistant Mike, Ingrid and our respective families, carefully excluded ourselves from any outside contact. Driving to work through Cromwell I would often not see another vehicle or single person: it was eerily quiet.  We agonised over and discussed at length all the possible ways we could give ourselves as much security to get the fruit in and the wines to barrel; whilst still attending to careful winemaking and most importantly, ensuring our staff were all as safe as possible. To have a member of our team become infected meant that we all would have to self-isolate, putting a terrifying meaning to the term “hands-off winemaking”! To lose a vintage and a whole year’s work in the vineyard would be devastating to say the least. 

Our cover shot this year shows our harvest team either suitably socially distanced, or within their family/living bubble, or… a victim of a telephoto lens! The usual niceties of harvest: morning and afternoon smokos, harvest lunches, glasses of wine, end of harvest celebrations; were sadly non-existent. For a glimpse of what harvest was like for us, have a view of: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/seven-sharp/clips/2020-looks-to-a-fine-vintage-for-nz-winemakers and https://vimeo.com/user101111414.

Looking back now, we have enormous gratitude and the utmost appreciation for everyone’s commitment to work through these difficult, and completely unknown, conditions. We were somewhat fortunate that the growing season and March weather was cooler than normal, allowing longer hang time and enabling valuable time for us to be as careful and safe as possible during the harvest. The potential quality of the vintage was not something we were initially discussing: it was the safety for our teams and grapes that was of critical concern. However, in the end, nothing was compromised and 2020 will be a memorable vintage for more than just one reason. Early signs suggest that the wines have a vivacity and distinct personality that somewhat matches the environment and mood at that time. 

While we prefer to focus on the fact that we safely managed to gather 2020, rather than its potential quality and attributes, we have no reluctance to share with you our enthusiasm for the 2019’s. These are without doubt some of the most thrilling wines we have yet made. Making them, following their evolution through élevage and preparing them for release (racking, bottling, writing tasting notes….), has been a pure delight. It is a vintage, not of an exceptional season, but a result of having every stage of growth perfectly dialed in.  This is something we are more frequently approaching these days; a result of both our increased efforts and combined knowledge and experience over the last 24 years. 

We have not received a single visitor at the winery now for almost 8 weeks! As domestic travel increases, and we all get the urge to get out, we would be delighted to see you. Please get in touch to arrange an appointment. We will welcome you - not with open arms! - but an equally suitable and compliant alternative: a glass of Pinot may entice!

Cheers

Blair 

After a lot of thought we have decided not to use Facebook or Twitter. We like longer conversations and for them to be personal not public. If we did it, it would be because it is a fashion and not because our heart is in it and that doesn’t feel right. So please email, or much better come and see us.