Marlborough wine companies make big calls after remarkably 'relaxed' harvest

Te Whare Ra co-owner Anna Flowerday says the 2016 vintage could produce wines as good as any ever produced in Marlborough.

Te Whare Ra co-owner Anna Flowerday says the 2016 vintage could produce wines as good as any ever produced in Marlborough.

Instead of the usual frantic rush, Marlborough wine companies have labelled this year's harvest 'relaxing'.

Just two rainfall events between early March and late April meant companies could take their time bringing in the crop.

Giesen Wines Marlborough general manager Rhyan Wardman said there was usually a 30-day window for harvest, however this year was the exception to the rule.

"We were in this luxurious position, which is unusual in Marlborough, where we could take our time," he said.

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At the start of harvest, some wine companies scrambled to bring in grapes ahead of the rain, but Wardman said as time went on "we all got more and more relaxed".

Wine Marlborough chairman Clive Jones said people would look back at the harvest as one of the most measured and orderly Marlborough had seen.

The warmer than average summer, resulting in even flowering and bunch set, also produced a bigger crop, which Jones said was larger than the relatively small 2015 vintage.

Disease pressure throughout the season from powdery mildew was the new normal for Marlborough, Jones said.

Allan Scott Family Estate winemaking and viticulture director Josh Scott said there was also botrytis around, but he had not heard many horror stories.

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He described the harvest as the best he had seen in 18 years.

Although the company took in double the crop from last year, its largest ever, the lack of rain made it just as easy to take in, Scott said.

This allowed winemakers to experiment more, although because the fruit was so clean Scott said it was proving difficult to make a botrytised riesling.

However, he had heard it was a mixed bag for other wine companies, as some had been hit harder by disease.

Te Whare Ra co-owner Anna Flowerday said the quality of the fruit and the nature of the growing season meant the wines produced this year could be some of Marlborough's best.

"I'll make a big call and say the best of Marlborough this year will be equal to some of the best we've ever had," she said.

The company, which had an 11-hectare vineyard in the Wairau Valley, started harvesting on March 15 and ended by picking syrah on April 17.

Flowerday said there were some big challenges because of the good flowering and resulting big fruit set, but the hard work of thinning the crop and preventing disease had paid off.

"It was a bit of a text book growing year for us, in that everything came in exactly as we would have wanted," she said.

A Rabobank report released last month said the strong New Zealand export market should be able to cope with the size of the 2016 vintage, which was shaping up to be larger than last year.

Last year, 233,000 tonnes of grapes were picked in Marlborough, however New Zealand Winegrowers would not be able to release the figures for this year until mid June.

In large years such as 2014, where 445,000 tonnes were picked throughout the country, some of the wine that was bottled proved hard to sell, something Scott said wine companies had learned to mitigate.

"The industry has matured enough to only pick what we need, not pick and hope," he said.

 - The Marlborough Express


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