Hanging with the grapes
“I love the drama and the energy, plus the immense satisfaction when the grapes look phenomenal,” said Lou Nisbet, who has been in the thick of it as a vineyard worker at the Mud House Bendigo Claim 431 vineyard for a decade.
She was thrilled that Mother Nature came up trumps and delivered an absolute beauty on the weather front for the vintage of 2016, handing on a plate a dreamy autumn boasting endless fine days, allowing the luxury for grapes to hang on the vines for as long as was desired.
“The fruit this year came in at a trot, rather than a canter or a gallop like previous years.” Mud House winemaker Cleighten Cornelius.
It was ultimately Mother Nature’s choice whether to make or break this crucial time of year, and she had a twinkle in her eye and the whole industry in the palm of her hands at Easter, as the dark clouds rolled in.
Grape growers and winemakers alike shuffled their feet, scratched their heads, and took a big deep breath.
But after a couple of short sharp sizeable rain events the skies cleared, and everyone was grinning for the rest of harvest.
Stephen Dempster, Group Viticulturist, was very happy with this year’s fruit.
The vineyards that flowered earlier during the warm weather in late November and early December 2015 had substantially higher berry number per bunch. This led to a higher than average yields in most vineyards in Marlborough, which were able to ripen very well and evenly during the lovely autumn.
“It was very good quality, and there was a well-balanced crop load,” said Stephen.
Ben Glover, Group Winemaker, said it was all in all a great vintage to have inside the shed.
With the Pinot Noirs resting through winter before undergoing malolactic fermentation, and the Sauvignon Blancs having been on the blending table this month, he described it all as looking exceptional.
“One thing is that I feel the 2016 wines are approachable and have a generous palate profile, so we can’t wait to get them bottled and into our Mud House adorers’ hands and glassware!”
For Tracy Taylor, Grower Viticulturist in Marlborough, it was her first harvest with Mud House and she was one happy lady to be able to tell her growers their fruit could hang for longer and ripen to perfection, amidst the dreamy autumn temperatures.
“You can only harvest it once!” she laughs, with a satisfied grin with the great quality of the fruit this year.
The first fruit pick for this harvest was the Pinot Noir handpick on March 21 at The Woolshed Vineyard in Marlborough, clones Able, 667, and 114. This was followed the next day by the Woolshed Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.
Nev Gane, Vineyard Manager at our Woolshed vineyard, is a fairly philosophical soul when it comes to the fruit.
“The colder weather during flowering meant a lower yield for our Woolshed Vineyard, but it had fantastic taste, was clean, and picked nice and early,” he said.
The Marlborough weather gods shone for Mud House winemaker Nadine Worley, and she embraced the extended hang time for the fruit.
Her favourite fruit was the small hand pick of Sauvignon Blanc off the hill blocks at the Mud House Woolshed Vineyard, the final grapes to be picked on April 7.
“It got whole bunch-pressed, and is fermenting happily in barrel. It has awesome concentration and is looking great.”
Mud House winemaker Cleighten Cornelius was thrilled to see some stunning wines developing, characterising the Pinot Noir in Central Otago as dark cherry and berry, with bramble and floral aromas and flavours, silky tannins and juicy acidity.
“The wines are stylish with great fruit flavours, long even palates and ripe skins and seeds,” he said, which created finesse, elegance, power and vibrant acidity.
The extraordinarily warm autumn proved its worth for the Chardonnay also, which achieved optimal ripeness without losing its vibrant acidity.
“Aromas are a mixture of citrus and tropical, that transcend to the palate with weight, even with no malolactic fermentation,” said Cleighten.
Down in Central Otago at Bendigo, the home of the Mud House Claim 431 vineyard, the season started quickly, throwing challenges with frost and wind.
Vineyard manager Tom Bullen said though once veraison started, the weather settled for a steady ripening period leading into harvest, where the first of the Pinot Noir was picked on April 1.
The clone stand-outs were the 115,113 and 777, while the stand-out blocks were R and The Terraces.
“There has been some lovely bunch lignification (woodiness) for some whole bunch this year too,” said Tom, who saw the last grape come in on April 18.
There we have it, one could safely say the weather was a fairy tale ending where viticultural and winemaking folk alike got to spend quality time hanging out with the grapes as they stayed on their vines for as long as the heart desired.
So thank you Mother Nature for not turning into a monster, because you really had us going there for a couple of days at the beginning….