This years’ harvest in Marlborough has been one of the earliest, driest and warmest since I arrived in 1995.
Growing degree days were about 10% above the long term average, and rainfall was only about 40% of normal.
The Astrolabe harvest started with Pinot Noir for Rosé on the 13 March, and finished with Albariño on the 21st April. Pinot Gris was picked between 22 March and 9 April over a 19 day period, and Sauvignon Blanc from 27 March to the 15 April over a 20 day period.
This year crops were well-balanced, matching our targets set against the soil capacity of the vineyard sites – without the need for any significant crop thinning. In general berry size was a little up, berry number and bunch weight and number down.
Flavours and aromas in the wines from the harvest seem strong, and early indications are that the wines will be of superior quality across all varieties. The warmer and earlier season has meant good sugar and low acid in the fruit when picked for optimal flavour. As a result, the winemaking has been very straightforward, and fermentations have been healthy and clean.
Pinot Gris has good structure, with lower than normal phenolics. Flavours range from pear in the Waihopai Valley, through red apple and ripe stone fruit in the Awatere. By and large pH has remained low, and the wines have a nice feeling of mineral through the palate.
Sauvignon Blanc in the Awatere Valley has been very good, and the wines show more thiol than usual – perhaps due to larger berry size and less phenolics. Classic Awatere flavours are abundant, with a good array of jalapeno, lime zest, white peach and white currant in the wines. Flavours have also been strong in the Wairau Valley, with some thiol and a ripe citrus profile. I expect our Astrolabe Province and Awatere Sauvignon Blanc to be very good, as should also be the Durvillea.
Pinot Noir has had another good season. Nice ripe flavours and plush but soft tannins seem to be the early indication in the barrels. I am happy with the other varieties, with lifted aromatics evident in the Rieslings, and elegant structure in the Chardonnay. It has been a very good year in Marlborough, and my job as a winemaker has been made very easy by the quality and balance of the grapes at harvest. I’m looking forward with excitement to see the wines in the bottle.
17th June, 2016.
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