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Marlborough Vintage Preview

Marlborough Vintage Preview

Tessa Nicholson

One of the best flowerings in the history of the region, was followed by the hottest January on record, which in turn was followed by the wettest February on record in Marlborough. All have played a part in this year’s lead up to vintage. With bunch numbers down, early predictions were for a yield of 15 percent below long term average. However that was before periods of timely rain just at cell division, which saw berry numbers soar, with latest predictions being yields could be anywhere from 15 to 25 percent above the LTA.

Those rain events that saw canopies and berries thrive like triffids, also presented a number of disease threats. It has been a costly year for growers, with numerous thinning’s, mechanical shakings and pluckings having taken place since January, and a plethora of sprays being needed to avert potential disease threats. Powdery raised its ugly head yet again, and the rain especially during Cyclone Gita cause a number of botrytis concerns.

Growers who have undertaken the hard work though will be rewarded once the fruit is ready to come in, which despite high summer temperatures is not expected to be much earlier than normal.

One of the interesting factors coming out of this year’s record breaking summer, is the fruit flavours have developed well before accepted brix levels have been achieved, according to winemaker Kirsten Creasy. She says parcels of fruit picked in mid March had great flavours despite the fact they were harvested at 17 to 18 brix. Acids were also noticeably lower, which has been put down to the warmer than average night time temperatures experienced in the region.

“There is also some very strange bunch architecture this year, with multiple shoulders that I’ve not seen before,” Creasy said. “That could possibly be due to flower initiation back in 2016.”

With the Chardonnay and Pinot having been picked for sparkling base, and a number of lower alcohol blocks of Sauvignon Blanc already in the tanks, the majority of Marlborough’s vintage was due to kick off by the end of March.

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