The 2019 season at Quartz Reef started well with perfect spring conditions. Budburst arrived on September 22nd starting with our Chardonnay vines and followed by the Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Unfortunately in early October we were hit hard with a severe frost. The weather warmed up and was relatively mild throughout the remaining Spring with rainfall in late November/early December providing good levels of moisture. This meant our vineyard flourished whilst we recorded the lowest water usage in a season.
At the beginning of December another cold front hit during flowering affecting bunch size resulting in a low yielding crop. Warm and settled weather followed with veraison of our Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris starting towards the end of January. Due to the light crops and warm weather, especially nights, the fruit ripened quickly and we geared up in expectation of another early harvest.
During the growing season (budburst to veraision) the following preparations were applied in the vineyard: Cow horn manure (500) and cow horn - quartz silica (501) application. As well as stinging nettle, equisetum and valerian tea’s.
And indeed we did start harvest slightly earlier this year and although we were ready with anticipation, our machinery was not! We had an absent press brain as it was being re-calibrated and our forklift also appeared to have been re-calibrated but with the wrong wiring as it would only turn left (somewhat reminiscent of a certain movie called Zoolander). With Kiwi and Austrian ingenuity we mastered the moment and harvest for Pinot Noir fruit for our sparkling wine base commenced on the 21st February followed by the Chardonnay. This continued into March with our last pick for the sparkling harvest on the 13th March.
There was a break on the autumn equinox which allowed the team to make our cow horn manure 500 and oak bark 505 preparation’s and bury them until they are lifted on the spring equinox. When then moved into the picking our Pinot Noir on the 28th of March. Harvest for the majority of fruit used in our still wines (Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris) started on the 1st of April – (not a joke)!
Due to the different flowering patterns and variation across the vineyard this year we had to be adaptive in our picking decisions. Constant monitoring of grape ripeness was required to identify the perfect picking window and the fruit was harvested in small sections from throughout the vineyard.
We wrapped up our 2019 harvest on the 8th April with the picking of our precious Gruner Veltliner (with assistance from our capital friends Olly of Vintners and Davey from Ortego Fish Shack).
In the winery we experienced very concentrated flavours and ripe tannins due to smaller berry size. We had to be very aware to not over extract our Pinot Noir in order to express the nature of our vineyard together with providing finesse and weight in the most balanced manner. The last pressing of Pinot Noir into barrel was completed with overall excellent colour, enticing ripe tannins and dark fruit with low malics.
Finally in May, the last of the nets were removed and the sheep brought in to graze. Back at the winery our Pinot Gris and Gruner Veltliner is quietly fermenting, our vintage clean-up has been completed and our last ciaos and goodbyes said to this year’s interns.
We experienced an extraordinary summer resulting in the hottest growing season ever in Central Otago’s modern history. Early flowering and ripening meant our normal six months of growing was condensed into a mere five months. February rain brought relief for the vines and enabled them to achieve physiological ripeness, and warmer than normal nights lead to lower acidity. Harvest dates were brought forward to achieve perfect balance.
A has been a turbulent season with lots of wind and the temperature half a degree lower than average in December and January. Although our Central Otago summer was cooler than usual the fruit proudly ripened as normal. As one of the first in the region to begin picking, we began harvesting fruit for our bubbles in mid-March, which was followed by the picking of grapes destined for still wine; Pinot Noir fruit between the end of March and beginning of April. Last to come in was our Pinot Gris and Grϋner Veltliner which was pressed and put to bed well before ANZAC Day!