Marlborough had the wettest winter since records began and the high rainfall continued into spring as well. Wet as it was it was a welcome change to previous dry winters and the ground water levels recovered completely.
Since spring, the weather has been a little warmer than usual, but has generally been a classic Marlborough summer; lots of sun, clear air and a bit of wind. We are now in a pattern of warm North West winds during the afternoon, with East winds in the evening. This drops the temperature during the night and gives us the diurnal range that contributes to Marlborough’s success as a wine producing region.
Crops are variable and there has been very diligent work done to reduce any crops that looked too large. On Delta vineyards, both the Pinot and the Sauvignon were shoot-thinned to reduce the crop and to promote even spacing of fruit along the cane. Flowering was good, although there was some variability, and clones like 777, which tend to be vulnerable to poor flowering weather, have a fair amount of hen and chicken. The up-side of this is reduced berry-size and resulting improved colour, tannin and concentration.
It is mid-February now and we are about to start a fairly aggressive green-thin on our Pinot Noir. This allows us to tune the crop level further and to make the ripening more even by removing any second set and later bunches which remain green while the others have started to colour. It seems like we are nearly a week behind 2008 which means we are very close to an average in terms of anticipated harvest. Usually our best years are the average ones so this augurs well.
The vintage started very early in 2006 and we initially feared that we would have lower aromatic levels as a result. Fortunately the weather became both cool and cloudy at the start of March, which resulted in good aromatic development. Cool temperatures at flowering made for a lighter crop than usual, but some excellent fruit quality.
This vintage started with very high bunch numbers due to the excellent weather during the previous year’s flowering. Flowering for the 2005 vintage was perhaps the worst seen in Marlborough in the history of grape growing. This reduced the potentially huge crop to one of average size and lead to a very large proportion of small berries. The summer was relatively cool and flavours developed very well.
Harvest was expected to start over Easter weekend but a brief and heavy rainfall meant that picking had to wait a further week until the berries dried out with the help of some strong, dry North West winds. Vintage actually commenced during the first week of April and happened very quickly as the berries started to lose weight and thankfully gain concentration. The end result was very low crops of incredible concentration and perfume.