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Harvest Report 2015
Marlborough | Central Otago | Waipara Valley

MARLBOROUGH

Spring weather was quite variable and there were a few nights in November when frost was of concern. We were fortunate enough not to be affected at our Woolshed Vineyard; however two of our growers were not so lucky.

Cool conditions affected flowering throughout Marlborough, this caused poor pollination of flowers and hence lower than average yields. Just as everyone was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, the weather gods smiled and warm sunny weather predominated. The period from June 2014 through to May 2015 was one of the driest on record in Marlborough. “It was good news for grape growers, although tough for the sheep and beef farmers of the district” said New Zealand Viticulturalist, Stephen Dempster.

Harvest was a little earlier than normal, starting auspiciously on Friday the 13th of March at The Woolshed. On that day Pinot Noir Clones 667 and 114 were picked at the Dambuster block just below the Delta Lakes Dam.

“Lighter crops and good weather meant this frantic time of year was the most relaxed it has been in many years and the fruit quality was exceptional,” Mud House Winemaker, Nadine Worley said.

“What a year! We had vineyards averaging just 9-10 tonne a hectare, down about 30% from last vintage. Immediately, you have the region's winemakers rubbing their hands together, even though the accountants were not!” Ben Glover, Group Winemaker New Zealand.

In 2014 the winemakers had to work hard to achieve texture and weight in the wines, however the fruit from the 2015 vintage delivered this in spades. “We had weight, flavour and all the typical Marlboroughesque aromatics,” Ben said. This came from all pockets of the region; The Awatere, Southern Valleys, and the coastal vineyards. 

WAIPARA VALLEY

It was a tough year in Waipara with a number of frost events in the spring, which meant many sleepless nights for Vineyard manager, Jean-Luc Dufour, and his team. A severe frost in October combined with a lack of inversion layer meant that the wind machines and helicopters (which we rely on, to protect the sensitive shoot stage) were ineffective. It was a devastating sight to see the damaged and blackened shoots the following day. Over the next couple of weeks, damaged shoots needed to be removed, allowing for secondary growth.

“The Waipara Valley looked worse than burnt Vogels toast following two severe frosts which hit the region in spring. Jean-Luc’s perseverance and Simon’s winemaking deftness, along with the ideal autumn weather provided all involved with some fantastic fruit to work with.” Ben Glover, NZ Group Winemaker, said.

The Waipara Vineyard team did a fantastic job following the frosts; removing the second set berries and damaged shoots, they added additional fertilizer which assisted in canopy encouragement and cut canes which should have positive effects on the 2016 Vintage fruit.

Above, starting work and the termperature is negative 6 degrees celsius!

BENDIGO | CENTRAL OTAGO

Spring weather was quite variable in Central. There were more frost events than we would usually expect and these put the wind machines to the test. Thankfully we didn’t sustain any significant damage. When it wasn’t freezing, it seemed as if the wind was blowing a gale and care had to be taken to protect the growing shoots with extra foliage wires being applied to prevent the shoots from blowing off the vines. Luckily the weather was kinder to us during flowering and bunches formed in late December. Irrigation was monitored carefully to ensure the vines maintained a health canopy during the dry summer.

The main difference with our Claim 431 vineyard this vintage was the welcome addition of an Australian, Tom Bullen, our new vineyard manager. “Tom’s high attention to detail across our three terraced block, ensured our winemaking team was provided with the best possible options from this exceptional Bendigo vineyard,” Ben said.

Harvest was slightly later than normal following a cool March and began the first week of April, the first pick was a block of clone 777, in the north east corner of the vineyard. A very successful harvest concluded just over two weeks later.

One of the hand picks at the higher altitude “Fans Block” had to be called off, due to a light snowfall and the picking bins started filling up with snow! 

The final pick was on the 21st April and Stephen believes Claim 431 had a fantastic vintage. “Fruit had time to ripen fully, without the sugar levels rising too high.  The fruit maintained good acidity and skin integrity was some of the best seen in years”.