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New Zealand 2001 Harvest - End of Vintage Report
31 May 2001
Updated with June 2001 year end production statistics

© Sue Courtney

Well it is practically over. Apart from the odd late harvest bunch of grapes still hanging on the vine hoping for a touch of botrytis infection, the rest are either fermenting away or maturing in tank or barrel. That is except the wines that have already been released, such as the Kim Crawford McLean Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2001, which has been heralded as the first release of the new vintage.

I asked several of the countries winemakers how they felt about vintage. The reactions are mixed. In some producers' minds, especially one or two in the northern area that did not pick, the vintage will rate a big fat ZERO. In the deep south I imagine some will rate the vintage a fantastic TEN.

Map of NZ Wine Regions, copyright Sue Courtney "Its been a vintage of two halves, in more ways than one" says Steve Smith MW of Craggy Range. "The lower half of the country from Martinborough south, right across the board has had a sensational vintage for white and red varieties that each of these regions specialises in. The top half of the country from Hawkes Bay north have had a vintage of two halves with early ripening varieties hit by humidity and rain during February and early March."

So let's tour the country from top to bottom

NORTHLAND
Okahu Estate
is New Zealand's most northerly winery. Monty Knight reports a small vintage of varying quality with some patches of excellence. Cold southerly and south westerly winds in October and November affected flowering and reduced the number of berries on the vine. Things looked up with dry weather late December through January but warm humid conditions in February and March meant some losses to powdery mildew & sour rot. However, expect good Chardonnay, very good Shiraz, a nice Pinotage/Chambourcin/Merlot from Shipwreck Bay and a reasonable Ninety Mile Cabernet Merlot.

A highlight in Northland was the harvest of the first grapes from Carrington Farms at Cape Karikari in Doubtless Bay.

MATAKANA
"Certainly, Mother Nature threw some interesting challenges at us this year" says Petar Vegar of Matakana Estate, "but it really is just a case of doing the extra work required to get the best out of the vintage". Although they lost considerable volume due to wind and rain at flowering time, the 2001 vintage ended up better than they first thought it would. They started picking the whites at the beginning of March and finished the last of the reds in the 3rd week of April. A highlight will be the 2001 Syrah, which is looking "very good".

AUCKLAND
"Small but perfect formed", says Michael Brajkovich of Kumeu River Wines, reflecting on one of his most laid-back and relaxed vintages on record. "Not that I was on Valium", he adds, "but because it was an extremely small harvest in terms of quantity". Cold weather during the critical flowering period reduced the crop to less than half of normal. However the fruit that was harvested was of very good quality with the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris in particular benefiting from the extra concentration afforded them by the decreased yield. 'They all display a creamy richness on the palate that can only be achieved at low crop levels'.

Kerr Farm had well decreased yields on their white varieties by my own taste test found a delicious Sauvignon Blanc with high Brix levels. The Pinotage was picked at optimum ripeness and another excellent Kerr Farm Pinotage should be expected. Check out my report on the Kerr Farm harvest.

"If they came in a little green, that was O.K. as long as it was clean", says Justin Papesch of Lincoln Wines. However there was no green in the Kumeu grapes harvested from Stuart Cameron's (ex Bazzard's) vineyard. The Pinot Noir grapes were very ripe and are looking good in the barrel. The Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Merlot were also picked when they wanted to and are looking very promising.

Lincoln sources grapes from Te Kauwhata and these were a little green, the weather dictating when they picked.

GISBORNE
Justin Papesch
says the Gisborne whites were also a little green but clean due to their grower cutting any rot out (while some of the larger companies may have machine harvested the rot). The weather dictated when they picked and consequently there will be no Heritage and Presidents Selection Gisborne Chardonnays produced this year by Lincoln.

Justin is most pleased, however, with the early ripening reds from Gisborne. The Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinotage were excellent with high Brix, strong colour and flavours with a positive analysis. Something to look forward to at the end of this year and next.

Montana Wines also report oustanding Merlot from the region.

HAWKES BAY
Steve Smith MW
, of Craggy Range, sums up the Hawkes Bay harvest thus: "Those in Hawkes Bay that were able to dodge this rain have harvested superb Chardonnay. The late season varieties of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon on low cropping, low vigour, warm sites have had a mixed year entirely dependent on vineyard management. Where appropriate crop management to even up ripening after the long flowering and removal of green bunches (up to four times) the results are outstanding, with rich densely coloured and ripe flavoured red wines of real merit. The vintage in Hawkes Bay will however be regarded as mixed with some outstanding wines in amongst many that didn't quite make it."

Justin Papesch of Lincoln was one who found their Hawkes Bay harvest in general, very disappointing. "The weather basically made sure yields were down and that nothing very ripe came out of Hawkes Bay, but saying that we received Chardonnay at 22.6 Brix but with a high total acidity" he said.

Other growers are more optimistic of their Hawkes Bay harvest.

John Hancock of Trinity Hill says "A very good quality vintage, with Cabernet Sauvignon being a highlight! Quantities are small, personally we are down by about 30% on a normal expectation, but we are happy with quality, the small crops giving good concentration.

Gordon Russell of Esk Valley reflects on a vintage that was "unbelievably great" after "such a bad summer". He found it hard work in the first few weeks of harvest when the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc were coming in but then things got easier. Their first Pinot Gris, after hitting a patch of dry weather, ripened quickly and developed good flavours. The Chenins look terrific too.

He confidently reports that they have some of the best red wine the Estate has ever made, in the barrel. "Our first ever Syrah looks amazing", he says. "It has turned out to be a classic Hawkes Bay red wine vintage", he concludes.

MARTINBOROUGH
Ata Rangi Wines
started harvest with the Pinot Noir on 29th March and continued through until the 22nd May, when the last of the Pinot Gris came off. Olly Masters reports that although there was some frost damage in October, the crop levels were not affected. In fact, a highlight was that there were good crops for a change. While drought conditions made water management a critical issue, the quality of the grapes was a highlight and the Pinot, Celebre and Chardonnay wines are all looking great!

NELSON
Phil Jones
of Spencer Hill Estate writes of a "dream season" in Nelson resulting in the winemakers harvesting when they wanted to rather than being dictated to by the weather. Bud break in late September was a couple of weeks later than usual. Typical Spring rains helped early growth until November when the rains stopped and the drought started, continuing until harvest. Although dry, the temperatures were normal for the region.
Non-irrigated grapes on the Moutere Hills were harvested slightly earlier than usual but on the irrigated plains harvest times were when expected.
Yields were slightly down for Sauvignon Blanc but as expected for other varieties.
In summary, the Nelson season was almost "perfect".

MARLBOROUGH
Marlborough recorded the worst drought on record. Yet many growers went through a similar drought in 1998 and learnt from the experience.

Montana Wines says that the 2001 vintage may well be the best ever in Marlborough. Conditions were ideal for growing grapes, there was no disease pressure, the fruit ripened beautifully with good flavour development and yields were satisfactory. They are particularly pleased that they harvested more Sauvignon Blanc than last year, though not as much as they would have liked.
Merlot looks like it could be the best ever from Marlbroough, with the dry conditions producing very ripe, small berries with excellent flavour concentration, colour and tannins.
A similar effect was seen with Pinot Noir, which is also up in quanity this year.

Justin Papesch of Lincoln Wines reports that their Marlborough products looking very good, although saying that, he has already tasted some over ripe 2001 Sauvignon Blanc's from other producers.

John Forrest of Forrest Estate says "As far as the vintage goes the drought in Marlborough produced perhaps the best ever vintage - for those on the Wairau aquifer! Highlights - as ever Sauvignon Blanc with special mention for the Rieslings."

Kim Crawford has let the wine speak for itself. His early release of the McLean Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2001, reviewed as Wine of the Week, shows lively acidity and pure Sauvignon flavours.

CANTERBURY and WAIPARA
Prof. Ivan Donaldson of Pegasus Bay says that from their point of view, the vintage in Canterbury in general and in Waipara in particular has been excellent.

One of the highlights for Pegasus Bay winemaker, Lynette Hudson, was the perfect weather. "Not too hot and not too cold - so the fruit had a long hang time allowing great flavour development and intensity.
Pegasus Bay started their harvest at the end of the first week of April and by the end of May had still not finished with some Riesling grapes still hanging. "There has been no botrytis around this year - so we are waiting patiently so we can make an ARIA", she explains. "Overall the vintage has blessed us with excellent grapes all round", she says as she summarises the varieties.

* Pinot will be excellent - ripe flavours with hints of spice but great structure, full and fleshy.
* Cabernets and especially Merlot, with their upfront sweet ripe fruit and great tannins to match, look excellent.
* Riesling will be great as well - the Brix was not high so they will be able to maintain low alcohol and make the clear pure style that they aspire to.
As for the drought, "not a problem - bring it on every year".

OTAGO
The vintage started in earnest during the first week in April in the Lowburn basin and about the 20th April in the Gibbston Valley. The last of the grapes came in mid May.

Due to the very dry January to March period there was a higher than expected yield which affected the picking regime at some vineyards. Some clones could handle the dry spell better and ripened earlier while vines that had suffered some stress ripened up to three weeks later.
"The most interesting part of this vintage is throughout all grape varieties, the total acid has been the lowest in relationship to the Brix, which will result in more balanced and flavoursome wines, without the influence of high alcohol, says Rudi Bauer of Quartz Reef.

Vintage for Quartz Reef commenced earlier than elsewhere in Otago, with the harvest of sparkling wine grapes at the end of March. They also picked the first grapes from their Bendigo Estate vineyard on April 7th. The rest of the grapes - pinot noir and pinot gris - came in around mid April.
"The quality has been good to very good and I expect some very friendly, and occasionally very pretty wines to press into barrels. Structurally I think the wines are better than 2000. The question remains whether the elegance of 2000 can be achieved." says Rudi.
He concludes "In principle, Central Otago, will continue their good run with pinot noir, which started in 1997 and early indications are that the new Dijon clones 115 & 777 will be a positive contribution to achieving more complex pinot noirs."

Steve Green, the President of the Central Otago Winegrowers' Association, predicts that Central Otago would process 1600 tonnes of grapes this year compared to 1009 tonnes last year.

* * * * * * * * * *

Thank you to everyone for your exclusive reports for wineoftheweek.com.

Wine Industry Statistics for 2001
In August 2001, there are 376 licensed wine producers in New Zealand.

In the Annual Vintage Survey released at the end of June 2001, the Wine Institute of New Zealand estimates a harvest of 71,000 tonnes of grapes. This is down 9,100 tonnes on 2000 and is the lowest figure since 1997. The shortfall was mainly due to frosts around flowering time in November and wet humid weather that covered the top half of the North Island for 14 days in a row in February.

There were 10,710 hectares of vineyard that contributed to the 2001 vintage.

Varietal production showing tonnes harvested in 2001 with percentage change from 2000:
    Sauvignon Blanc      20,826 tonnes    + 34.6% 
    Pinot Noir            8,015 tonnes    + 26.8%
    Riesling              4,377 tonnes    + 7.6% 
    Semillon              1,887 tonnes    - 13.8%
    Cabernet Sauvignon    2,782 tonnes    - 26.6% 
    Chardonnay           17,067 tonnes    - 27.7%  
    Muller Thurgau        4,231 tonnes    - 33.4%   
    Merlot                2,573 tonnes    - 37.1%  

Regional harvest in 2001 with percentage change from 2000:
     Canterbury/Waipara   1,779 tonnes    + 125.8% 
     Nelson               2,313 tonnes    + 105.5%   
     Otago                1,543 tonnes    + 52.9% 
     Marlborough         36,962 tonnes    + 41.0% 
     Wellington           1,457 tonnes    + 29.6% 
     Northland              84 tonnes     - 19.9% 
     Waikato               411 tonnes     - 35.5%  
     Gisborne           12,936 tonnes     - 40.7%  
     Hawkes Bay         10,887 tonnes     - 54.4%    
     Auckland              614 tonnes     - 54.9%
Record harvests were realised in all the provinces that increased production.


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