edited by Sue Courtney
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New Zealand 2001 Harvest - End of Vintage Report
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.
"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
A highlight in Northland was the harvest of the first grapes from Carrington Farms at Cape Karikari in Doubtless Bay.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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
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.
* 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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