2014 Vintage Report: Perfect (by the skin of our teeth)

Growing season (Oct-Apr) data:

Rainfall (mm)

Season 13-14 12-13 11-12 10-11 09-10 08-09 07-08 06-07 05-06
October 105 69 110 40 63 70 88 126 67
November 67 33 87 29 53 11 28 61 18
December 36 82 113 25 49 91 74 60 41
January 48 43 76 76 114 7 16 31 24
February 23 69 36 11 17 121 29 10 37
March 71 95 111 85 45 35 39 44 67
April 172 35 70 103 7 37 98 43 61
Totals 522 426 603 369 348 372 372 375 315

 Growing Degree Days (heat units)

Season 13-14 12-13 11-12 10-11 09-10 08-09 07-08 06-07 05-06
October 100 75 85 63 86 102 112 113 113
November 152 88 120 166 146 186 176 181 156
December 225 232 189 268 220 247 241 169 280
January 191 230 210 262 266 290 324 274 290
February 204 186 165 254 264 244 255 223 234
March 145 175 140 180 215 163 233 260 171
April 123 119 79 67 141 100 127 108 151
Totals 1140 1105 988 1259 1338 1332 1396 1328 1395

The two key statistics from the 2013-14 season are that we matched our earliest harvest date (24 March) and that the 2nd and 3rd weeks of April produced more rain than recorded for the entire month of April over the last 30 years. The early harvest ensured that the rain, which fell right when we would normally be picking, did not bother us, but it was certainly a close call.

The origin of the early vintage was a mild, frost-free Spring following on from a mild winter and the absence of any prolonged bouts of North-Westerly gales. The benign conditions had us a week to ten days ahead of normal throughout the season. Rainfall was minimal from Dec-Feb and, excluding a 40mm downpour in March, that month was dry as well so we had no disease pressure leading in to harvest. Flowering and set were exceptional and when our crop estimates showed some startlingly high potential crops we bit the bullet and thinned heavily, up to 30%, to ensure the vines would be able to ripen the crop and to protect fruit quality. Temperatures were slightly ahead of the very good 2013 season so we had every reason to be optimistic about vintage 2014. That optimism was not misplaced as we harvested grapes in perfect condition and in perfect weather.

It is unusual to have two outstanding vintages in a row and in my time here I can only recall 2000 and 2001 as comparable. As with those earlier vintages the latter of the pair, in this case 2014, looks slightly the better at this stage but it’s a quibble as both are excellent. Rain started falling heavily on the 8th of April and persisted for the next two weeks so we were grateful to have everything (one exception) under a roof by then. The only casualty was a few rows of Riesling we left out in the hope of producing a late harvest wine. Sadly the rain overwhelmed that plan and with ignoble rots substantially outnumbering noble rot (botrytis) the birds were given a late present.

Just a reminder re the Growing Degrees Days table above. Prior to 2013 I used the nearest dedicated weather station to provide the data for our Growing Degrees Days summary. It turns out that, due to its proximity to other structures, this weather station was likely to be over-stating temperature. The Growing Degree Days figures since 2013 are sourced from another local weather station that is set up in accordance with the rules that Metservice specify for siting weather stations. I haven’t re-calculated the earlier seasons  but it is likely that, excepting the cold 2012 vintage, they will be ranged around the 2013 figure.

Here are the average harvest parameters for each variety:

Variety Brix pH  Acidity (g/l) Yield (t/ha)
Chardonnay 23.5 3.35 7.5 9.7
Pinot Noir 24.5 3.5 8 6.4
Riesling 20 3.2 6.3 7.7
S.Blanc 23.6 3.1 8.1 12.3

Roger Parkinson

May 2014

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