It has certainly been a harvest to remember!
Our vineyard awoke with the bud burst of our chardonnay in late September (22nd) followed by Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. It was a cool start to the season with occasional frosts which were well-managed by the wind machines. Meanwhile in the vineyard the vines were flourishing with growth and we began our shoot thinning to improve balance.
During October we were hit by not one but two brief hailstorms which affected the upper parts of our estate vineyard resulting in some damage to the growing tips and leaves. We completed an application of 501 (finely ground quartz silica which is sprayed into the atmosphere of the vineyard) to reduce humidity and increase sunlight into the canopy.
December was cooler in comparison to previous years, with a higher amount of rainfall and unusual weather. We also experienced more cloud cover than normal, the severe bushfires in Australia, along with a more south westerly flow may have contributed to this. Due to the unsettled weather patterns flowering was drawn out and which resulted in an uneven fruit-set.
Weather continued to be slightly cooler than usual, and we completed another application of 501 to the vines. By the end of January, we were experiencing more settled weather, this continued into February. Veraison was early Feb, and the nets were placed to protect the fruit.
We began our harvest on the 9th of March with the first parcel of Pinot Noir for our Methode Traditionnelle. Our Chardonnay fruit came in the following week and by the 20th of March the team celebrated the end of our sparkling harvest for the season! The fruit was picked in excellent health and the ferments are running well. Our Pinot Noir harvest is now just around the corner and we are hoping to harvest the first blocks very soon.
As the Autumn Equinox fell our Biodynamic Preparation 500 was also made. This involves placing high quality cow manure into cow horns and burying them for the winter. When spring arrives, they will be lifted and the nutrient rich manure will be spread throughout our vineyard to promote energy and vitality in our soil.
With the impact of Covid-19 around the globe, we faced a new reality during our harvest with New Zealand in Lockdown. We were thankful the wine industry is classed as an essential business and able to continue with our 2020 harvest, albeit under very strict protocol. It was important more than ever to take one day at a time and to stay safe. The vintage team remained focused on the importance of a successful harvest, as we looked beyond our current challenges to a strong future.
At the end of March, we proceeded to pick the first of our Pinot Noir fruit. With the added pressure of Covid-19 and various protocols in place, we were happy to have the weather on our side, which made it easier to forward plan picking dates. Our cellar crew was smaller due to the impact of the virus, and protocols in the vineyard meant we had a steady flow of grapes being processed at the winery due to the lower volume per day.
As we moved into April, we began to harvest our Chardonnay fruit on the 3rd April, with some excitement as we have more than anticipated. This was closely followed by our Pinot Gris fruit on the 9th & 11th of April, and the Gruner Veltliner on the 12th of April. The character of our 2020 wines will have a slightly higher acidity aspect throughout which is very well suited to our Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Our Pinot Noir ferments, each from a single block are now hibernating in barrel.
Each year we vinify the blocks throughout our estate vineyard individually as single ferments, and the team have the privilege to name each one. Some of the ferment names for the 2020 wines include “Whanau Umanga” which means to keep it in the family, “Moldau” a river in Bohemia where Rudi’s father was born, who would have been 100 years old and following tradition there is one ferment from our Royal Block, “Leopold the 3rd". Our white wines are also at home in the winery, sitting on lees in tank to gain complexity and texture. In the vineyard our nets have now been removed and we are awaiting our first frost to commence pruning. Upon the descending moon we will also turn our compost once more, so it is ready to be spread amongst the vines in Spring.
Overall, our harvest ran smoothly throughout March and April, with a continuous flow of fruit over a longer period. We are very proud of the team and what we have achieved under the circumstances, they mastered the harvest in a positive way, and we thank everyone for sticking to the protocols set. It is certainly a harvest to remember and we will be rewarded with a vintage of high-quality wine.