It has been our earliest vintage since we grow grapes in Marlborough. A dry and warm growing season with a few hot days accelerated ripening and fruit sugar levels. Normally we would start around the third week in March, so about now. Climate change may be here as well, but thanks to the cool Marlborough nights our grapes benefit from a long growing season with great acidity levels. Despite a pleasant spring and seemingly good flowering quite a few varieties ended up in ‘hen and chicken’ berries. "Hens and chicks" is when a grape bunch contains berries of different sizes and levels of maturity. The normal-sized berries are the "hens," and the small berries are the "chicks." It's believed to be caused by cool weather during flowering, the French term is millerandage”. Waiting for full maturity of the ‘Hen’ berries meant the ‘chicks’ were already raisons which increased the natural fruit sugar substantially (and once naturally fermented the alcohol level). Using irrigation only as an emergency backup the berries were already relatively small sized. All these resulted in less juice and a yield reduction of about 30 to 40% of our already low yield fruit management. No doubt, great concentration in the wines.
All our late ripening varieties are still bathing in sunshine with the grapes for our iconic Bordeaux blend ‘Spirit of Marlborough’ and the mighty Montepulciano hanging out there until the end of this month. Until then, our small team will be out next week picking our Viognier. Expect a sign at our Cellar Door “call us if you want to buy some wine or find us in the vineyard, get sticky fingers and help picking”.