Growing season 2012
So far this growing season has supplied below average temperatures with cool weather through budburst. This followed by the cool weather at flowering for the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay has caused a lot of 'hen and chicken' set in the bunches. The Pinot Gris and Riesling seem to have slipped through relatively unscathed. Our Gewurztraminer has decided to be very sparing in yield with bunches needing to be found by the magnifying glass. Our Sauvignon Blanc took at least 4 weeks to flower due to the glum weather and is also displaying some hen and chicken. These weather parameters often create extraordinary flavours in Sauvignon Blanc, within each bunch there is such a diversity.
The leaf blower has been through to blow all grape bunch trash out and remove a few leaves. We have been spraying with compost teas brewed onsite along with seaweed sprays. Also being applied after the leaf blower for greater spray penetration is the baccilus subtilis which we also brew on site. Baccilus subtilis bacteria dominate the botrytis spores by numbers leaving no food or space for the botrytis spores. We spray that on a couple of times more through the season. This in tandem with an open canopy and a lighter grape load on the vine minimises the opportunity for disease issues.
The Spring rainfall means good solid canopies which enables the vines to ripen the grapes. We are expecting vintage to be in late March. The dampness has been great for the inter-row flowers. With our own bee-hive at Huia we have had a massive pollination and will be collecting seeds in a couple of weeks. We have had our first harvest of honey in January, about 3kgs, as the bees have been so productive and we have so much food for them.
The 2010 and 2011 growing season was reasonably wet with warm dry weather interspersed with distinct rain events. There was enough rain to keep the inter-row and under-vine green growth very active. In our vineyards the vines were prevented from taking up too much water by the competition from the resident plants under the vines and in the inter-rows. We sent the leaf blower through the vineyards to blow out any bunch clutter and remove some leaves to keep the canopy light and disease free. After a damp Spring there was a clear run at picking. The weather settled and we had the usual March warmth that seems to maximise the flavours here nearly every year. The vineyard bio-dynamic philosophy, management and diligent viticulture, along with '2 cane only' approach on the wire produced magnificent clean grapes for the 2011 harvest.
The 2011 Blanc de Blanc base was hand–picked on the 9th March looking perfect. The still table wines were picked with the final Sauvignon Blanc pick finishing on the 15th April in perfect condition. Much of the picking analysis was the same as in vintage 2010. After the 15th April the rain came back again with the change in the seasons. We were very relieved to have our harvest tucked away in barrel and tanks fermenting beautifully while filling the winery with magnificent aromas.
Some Riesling was left out to make a botrytised wine. What remained was picked on the 18th May at 37 Brix which is 370grams sugar per litre. This wine took a long time to settle out and is finally bottled to spend a couple of years settling down in the bottle.
The 2011 vintage was a good year to not have too much of a grape load on the vines for earlier ripening due to the poor weather at the end of April. For wineries such as Huia the grapes were very clean and similar in flavour to the superb 2010 vintage.
Every year begins for us with pruning and the expectation and anticipation builds over the next 11 months.The weather during this past vintage has been unusual.
Spring, September 2009, brought us a mix of very hot, sunny days with some long cold wet periods in between. Flowering was good on the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but unsettled weather caused over flowering and reduced the crop level of the Sauvignon Blanc. The grape berry size remained small. As summer progressed temperatures remained below average. It was not until later in February that things started to warm up. Since then we have had the most wonderful weather, clear dry days with light winds. The grapes hastened their ripening and the flavour development process was well balanced and consistent.
Vintage usually starts for us with picking the bubbly. We try to time our harvests according to the biodynamic calender. This year was no exception and we harvested some crisp Chardonnay for our 2010 Blanc de Blancs.
The next fruit into the winery was Pinot Noir. We have harvested Pinot from three key geographic regions in Wairau Valley this year. From 5 different vineyards and around 18 separate blocks and over 9 different clones. Yields have been quite low despite a reasonable flowering in the Pinot Noir, so the flavours have been really intense.
We ferment the Pinot Noir in vineyard blocks as it ripens and is picked. The grapes are all hand-picked and destemmed into tank to soak and ferment. Once ferment is finished and the caps start to sink the wine is drained from the tanks. Each tank is pressed separately to keep each clonal set and vineyard separate. This allows greater choice at blending, expressing the individual vineyard terrior.
Sauvignon crops have been quite small for us this year averaging about 5 to 7 tonnes to the hectare (35 - 48 hl/ha). This has resulted from a combination of factors including cool flowering, but also some very careful pruning and shoot thinning by the vineyard crew. We pick our Sauvignon very early in the morning (4am) when the fruit is at its coldest. This means the fruit can retain all the wonderful aromatics that the Marlborough climate gives us. We pick it into small 1000 litre bins and press it cold without crushing to minimise skin contact and phenolics.
The stony silts at our Rapaura Road vineyards provide ripe passionfruit, melon and citrus flavours into the Sauvignon Blanc. Our Winsome vineyard grows on heavy Orthic Clays. These soils give us more structure and some bright greengage plum, gooseberry and nettle flavours.
No pesticides or herbicides are used to grow the fruit. We use careful canopy management and benign biological products to manage any disease. Weeds under the vines are managed using a Braun undervine weeding machine and by hand weeding. We also make loads of compost from our winery marc and prunings to fertilise the soil, encourage good soil biology for healthy vines.
All the Gewurztraminer and the Riesling is organically grown on our Winsome block. The heavy clay soils mean that no irrigation was used and it has resulted in a small crop of lovely perfumed fruit. The only problem we had was to stop the hand-picking team from eating all the grapes themselves!
The 2010 vintage provided us with exceptional quality and the wines have great concentration and balance.
Claire & Mike Allan