Vintage Report 2018
the many layers of climate change revealed...
2018 proved another challenging and stressful vintage for Marlborough. The second year running, it left many feeling frustrated. The warmest growing season on record, the region experienced the tail end of three ex tropical cyclones in January and February resulting in 50% of our usual annual rainfall in just those two months. The coinciding warm temperatures added disease pressure but our efforts in the vineyard and commitment to bio-dynamic and organic techniques paid off. We had some notable successes including harvesting the best Sauvignon Blanc we’ve seen in four years.
Winter was mild and a warm spring with above average night time temperatures meant there was no risk of frost. Pinot Noir bud burst came early whilst Sauvignon Blanc remained steady around 9th October. Very warm and dry summer weather began mid-November and Pinot Noir flowering started shortly thereafter. It took over two weeks to complete whilst Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Petit Manseng all had very rapid flowering resulting in excellent fruit set.
In January we started to see a change in the weather patterns and the La Nina cycle had New Zealand surrounded by warm ocean temperatures. This allowed tropical weather systems to slide across the north of the South Island bringing warm and humid weather for the rest of the growing season. These conditions combined with a good fruit set resulted in bigger than normal berries so a severe green harvest was required in many parts of the vineyard. Veraison came next and was early across all varieties, Pinot was stubbornly protracted reflecting its flowering whilst Sauvignon raced through.
The warm dry summer we expect in Marlborough just didn’t happen and by early March the writing was on the wall that it would be a difficult vintage. Luckily maturity levels were quite advanced. Harvest was set for Tuesday 20th March (a fruit day, one day before the autumn solstice). For the first time ever we commenced picking with Sauvignon Blanc and some great fruit was harvested from Loin and Rack. The juice went straight to barrel it was so good. But clouds were on the horizon as another ex-cyclone headed our way and after two days of productive picking we had to pause for 48 hours of substantial rainfall. It was all hands to the pumps after that and we targeted the most fragile blocks first as we moved to pick everything as quickly as possible. We finished the bulk of our harvest on 31st March, the earliest ever, with just the late ripening Petit Manseng remaining on the vine.
As always, only the best fruit made it to the press. Judicious handpicking, sorting and selection in the vineyard was followed by each bunch passing over the sorting table at the winery with six sets of eyes removing any undesirable fruit. The result: very, very good Sauvignon Blanc harvested between 22 and 23.5 Brix with good, fine acidity, Pinot Noir with good fruit intensity and softness, and Petit Manseng incorporating some lovely pink botrytis berries (25%) harvested at 26 Brix with fine acidity. For the second year in a row our Viognier didn’t quite make it. Incredibly disappointing… but as they say in France, “c’est la vie, c’est la guerre!”.