Now that harvest is over, do you feel a sigh of relief?
Yes, I feel grateful, content and relaxed now the fruit of this year’s labour is safely in the winery. I worked hard in the vineyard to produce excellent healthy grapes and it feels gratifying to be rewarded by a great vintage.
What work will you now be conducting in the winery?
In the last two weeks I have been pumping over or plunging the musts for the late ripening varieties e.g. Spirit, Monte, Lagrein, Nebbiolo, Saperavi, Cab Franc and regular lees steering for the whites in the barrels. The regime is roughly three times daily for the reds and twice a week for the whites. Now, we are pressing all the fermented young red wines and transfer them into barrel, puncheon or Amphora. With the whites it’s a lot about observing that the natural wild fermentation goes smoothly and smells healthy and clean.
When will you start your post-harvest vineyard management and what will be the first thing you do?
We already packed the nets and stored them away for the next season. The marc is composted and the stalks of the grapes are mulched under. Everything that is left behind goes back to the vineyard; we just keep the juice… Simultaneously I started with under-vine weeding, just because the dry weather condition are favourable to do this now and means I have less weed control work later. With the leaves down with some varieties we can start pruning. Whilst it is early to do so, my theory is that it will prevent more vigorous growing in spring to keep yield down.
Has the wine growing cycle changed in the last years, climate change?
I think so. Bud burst is always earlier and consequently is harvest. It’s about 100 days from flowering to picking and if flowering is early we pick early. This year was about 2 weeks earlier than average.
Was there a variety which surprised you this harvest?
All the late ripening varieties loved the dry and beautiful Indian summer and have performed extremely well with great physiological ripeness. However, the dryness made for small berries with less (but extremely concentrated) juice. It means about a 30% less yield.
This vintage will no doubt go down in memory due to the Covid-19 outbreak, did you find that this massively affected you during harvest?
Not really, for me the meaning of a family winery is were the family is hands-on and can do all work involved by themselves if needed. I planted all the vines; I do all the extensive viticulturist work and make the wine. Therese does all the administrative and selling tasks but also helps in the vineyard whenever needed. Another reason, that despite our success, I never extended the vineyard size.
This holistic approach is the most authentic way possible and we did this vintage safely with the help of only a few people. We may be a bit more exhausted by long hours but on the same time happy and content we can still do it together as a family.
We know that you plant a lot of different grapes which are not typical to Marlborough or New Zealand, what would be the next variety you plant and why?
The latest and probably last vineyard addition was Carmenere and I am excited to see the impact it will have as part of the blend for our “Spirit of Marlborough”.
I know, I said that many times, but I will focus on the varieties which excites me most. For example, I wish I had more grapes for the “The Spirit of Marlborough”, seeing that our first vintage 1998 is still wonderful to drink or the 1999, which we just opened yesterday, being so unbelievable fresh and seductive. That is what a vignerons dream are made of: when more than 20 years down the track all the hard work devoted to make great wines naturally, with little addition of sulphur, have paid off.
Also, I would love to release again a pure Cabernet Franc and Merlot but would need more of this varieties in order not to comprise the “Spirit of Marlborough” blend. I cannot buy grapes in, as so far, I have not seen anyone to crop as low or put that much vineyard work in for the quality I expect. This means I have to sacrifice some of my other varieties and top-graft them with the varieties I like to have more of. An emotional decision but I will probably do less Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gruner Veltliner. Not because they do not thrive in our vineyard but because they are more widely available (even not in the dry quality we produce).
In short, I try to consolidate and focus on the varieties for the wines which will last the rest of my life…