Quality timeby Michael Cooper
The sometimes difficult 2015 harvest has produced some great results.
The warm, dry summer was “perfect” for grape growing, enthused New Zealand Winegrowers in early March, predicting an “outstanding, albeit smaller, vintage”. Now the fruit has been picked and the ferments have subsided, what do we know about the size and quality of the 2015 harvest?
It was always likely to be smaller than last year’s gigantic crop, which exceeded the previous record set in 2013 by 29%, yielding an additional 84 million bottles of New Zealand wine to sell. Spring frosts and cool conditions during the vines’ flowering ensured a lighter year. So did drought in Marlborough, Canterbury and Otago, together with outbreaks of a warm-weather fungal disease, powdery mildew.
On Waiheke Island, Cable Bay reported that a windy spring reduced its crops, but the good news is that low-yielding vines give wines with more concentrated flavours. In Gisborne, “Cyclone Pam added extra chaos, taking some crops and pushing vintage back by 10 days”, according to Wrights Vineyard and Winery, which eventually harvested some very ripe chardonnay for its reserve label.
In Hawke’s Bay, one top small producer says 2015 was a “difficult” vintage, with low yields, powdery mildew creating extra vineyard work and a rainy harvest period. “But the flavours are still good.” Dry River in Martinborough reported a small crop of “exciting” quality.
Nelson’s Neudorf Vineyards predicted “classic” wines with moderate levels of alcohol and “elegance, vibrancy, purity”. In Marlborough – the industry’s engine room – this summer was warmer, sunnier and drier than last. Mount Riley worried that the heat might reduce the grapes’ appetising acidity, but says “the wines are looking very good. Quantities are well down on 2014. No rain, clean fruit … all good from our viewpoint.”
Further south, Waipara growers lamented a very small crop, but Sherwood Estate enthused about its pinot gris (“the best-looking fruit we have ever seen”) and Waipara Hills reported “amazing” pinot noir. After a cold snap in February, many Central Otago vineyards raced against time to finish the harvest before the onset of autumn frosts.
Wine of the week
Looking for a good, dry pinot gris? Fragrant and full-bodied with vibrant peachy flavours, hints of pears and spices and a smooth finish, it’s a food-friendly style that’s drinking well now. $22
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