Harvest Interview with Vigneron Hans Herzog.

How has the growing season been so far?

Nothing to really complain about. Fruit set in spring is always the most critical time for me as I have pruned for low yields in the winter with only a few shoots available. So if fruit doesn't set it can lessen my already low yield as I do not have a back up. Montepulciano has flowered during a relatively cool and wet period and fruit set has suffered unfortunately, so will be smaller quantities this vintage.

In general how does this year’s start to harvest look?

Yield is slightly under our already low expectations due to the extremely dry summer and my philosophy to irrigate sparingly. Spot irrigation is not really the solution for our deep rooting vines and it can never replace a good rain which covers the whole surface.

Which varietals did you harvest first this year, as we know each year can be different?

We picked first our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for our Sparkling which were picked on the 12th of March, marking our first day of vintage. Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer followed on the 17th March, with Pinot Gris and some rows of Sauvignon Blanc being picked this week.

What if rain should occur during the harvest season, how do you adapt?

No rush, if there is rain we wait a few days and let it dry out.  Any rain or water intake is absorbed instantly in our free draining soils. With our extremely low yields we have healthy fruit  which is in addition is leaf-plucked around the bunches to allow air circulation there is no really any threats from normal rains.

How do you decide when is the optimal time to pick a grape variety?

Once the grapes have achieved physiological ripeness. Sugar alone is not a factor. The seeds have to be brown and the flesh around separating easily. PH and taste are other indicators. Tasting the berries, the typical fruit aromas of that grape variety should be easily recognised. 

Are most grape varieties harvested around the same sugar levels?

No, each grape variety achieves different sugar levels. Some grape varieties go naturally higher once they achieve physiological ripeness, e.g. Viognier, Arneis, Verdelho, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir for the reds.

What is one of your biggest challenges during harvest and how do you manage this?

I grew up us a farmer son, tending to the land and its bounty and learned that mother nature is what it is - unpredictable. From my father I have adapted a calm stance that you take it in your stride. For me, vintage is not a challenge but the fruit of the labour from the season. Something to celebrate not to stress about.

How long does our harvest period normally last?

Picking our many different grape varieties, which all ripen at different times, means harvest lasts for around six weeks.

Is there is anything you even worry about?

Autumn in Marlborough is normally very stable. I always hope that the world wide 'climate change' will not affect this. Our many late ripening varieties, which include the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano and Nebbiolo are still hanging out, whilst most of the vineyard is picked. Its with anticipation that I await patiently to pick them... 

Our Cabernet Sauvignon - Around 23 brix already!

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