2017 Vintage Report: lies, damned lies and statistics

Growing season (Oct-Apr) data:

Rainfall (mm)

Season 16-17 15-16 14-15 13-14 12-13 11-12 10-11 09-10 08-09 07-08 06-07
October 42 26 35 105 69 110 40 63 70 88 126
November 118 21 55 67 33 87 29 53 11 28 61
December 44 31 29 36 82 113 25 49 91 74 60
January 52 70 3 48 43 76 76 114 7 16 31
February 53 17 36 23 69 36 11 17 121 29 10
March 62 19 41 71 95 111 85 45 35 39 44
April 139 48 84 172 35 70 103 7 37 98 43
Totals 510 232 283 522 426 603 369 348 372 372 375

 Growing Degree Days (heat units)

Season 16-17 15-16 14-15 13-14 12-13 11-12 10-11 09-10 08-09 07-08 06-07
October 93 85 75 100 75 85 63 86 102 112 113
November 146 118 117 152 88 120 166 146 186 176 181
December 186 187 190 225 232 189 268 220 247 241 169
January 215 264 255 191 230 210 262 266 290 324 274
February 211 299 187 204 186 165 254 264 244 255 223
March 181 221 199 145 175 140 180 215 163 233 260
April 100 106 125 123 119 79 67 141 100 127 108
Totals 1132 1280 1148 1140 1105 988 1259 1338 1332 1396 1328

Looking at the numbers above you might think the 2016-2017 season was slightly wetter and cooler than average but nothing too out of the ordinary and you would be dead wrong! Hence the old Mark Twain quote (attributed in the first instance to British PM Benjamin Disraeli) about there being three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.

While the 2016 half of the growing season was unremarkable, the second half was anything but. Looking at the growing degree days, which measure accumulated heat above 10 degrees, the numbers certainly don’t tell the story of an exceptionally cool and cloudy Summer (if indeed Summer it was). Fruit set was patchy and the potential crop at the lower end of the range. Normally smaller crops are not something to enthuse about but this year, with the cool Summer, it meant ripening was not as delayed as it might have been.

After the cool,cloudy Summer we were hoping for a typically dry, warm Wairarapa Autumn but it was not to be. We picked our first grapes (Pinot Noir) in perfect conditions on the 2nd of April and then for the next 12 days we watched 125mm of rain drop out of the sky. The condition of the grapes held up remarkably well over this period but there is no doubt that dilution of sugars and flavours was a factor. Once the rain stopped picking commenced at pace to ensure we got grapes into the winery in the best condition possible – this was not the year to leave grapes hanging out in the hope of a late Indian Summer!

Replacing sugars from dilution is easily achieved in the winery (thanks Chelsea) but concentration and structure are another matter. Fruit flavours, while not as concentrated as usual, are correct and clean so the vintage will produce wines of good flavour but probably for earlier consumption. That is particularly true of the Pinot Noirs which have some lovely, bright berry flavours but not the tannin and structure we normally expect. Overall, a very challenging season and probably a better season for the white varieties than Pinot Noir.

Cheers,

Here are the average harvest parameters for each variety:

Variety Brix pH  Acidity (g/l) Yield (t/ha)
Chardonnay 21.5 3.3 7.5 6
Pinot Noir 23.5 3.4 8 5
Riesling 21 3.1 8 5
S.Blanc 21.5 3.1 9 10

Roger Parkinson

September 2017

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