The New Zealand 2014 vintage kicked off with a rip roaring start with the Marlborough Woolshed Vineyard Pinot Noir claiming naming rights as the first fruit through the door on the 10th March.
Throughout the growing season, speculation was rife that this would be one of the earliest vintages Marlborough has ever seen. “Bud break was very early last spring; warmer than average temperatures up to Christmas kept the season moving quickly. However, as usual, Mother Nature can be a bit of a tease and just when everyone was ready to enjoy their summer holidays, the sun disappeared,” Mud House Viticulturist, Stephen Dempster said. Maximum temperatures cooled off in December and overcast weather slowed things down a notch.
The first of the Marlborough Woolshed Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc came in, in unison with the Claim 431 Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir on the 25th March.
Marlborough had fantastic weather throughout the month of March, during which a substantial part of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay crops were harvested.
The 2014 vintage was unique; the fruits acids were looking more balanced, with flavours and acid ripening outpacing brix. “What we saw was a vintage of early flavour development where flavours ‘beat’ brix in the race to make picking decisions.” Mud House Group Winemaker, Ben Glover said.
Again the Marlborough Woolshed Vineyard shone, and its flavours propped up our key Mud House Sauvignon Blanc style, along with fruit from Marlborough’s Wairau and Awatere Valleys.
“The growing season for Sauvignon Blanc has been fantastic; the Lower Wairau Valley in Marlborough is holding its acidity with good intensity and salty structure”, Ben said.
As always though, harvest is controlled by the weather. At the end of the first week of April it began to rain and didn’t stop. Harvest crews and wineries did a sterling job, processing the fruit as fast as possible, when conditions allowed. The remaining fruit was all safely in tank by Easter. Ben explained this fast paced intake of the fruit in a typical kiwi fashion, as ’giving it some jandal.’ “It was ready to pick and flavours were on the money,” Ben said.
“It was certainly a vintage of two halves with fantastic settled condition for all of March and a week of April. Since then the east coast of the South Island has had three times its average monthly rainfall with around 150mm falling on our vineyards in Marlborough and Waipara,” said Stephen.
The Claim 431 Vineyard, located in Bendigo; a sub region of Central Otago, had yet another outstanding vintage. Comprised of 10 Pinot Noir clones, spread across three different terraces, the Claim 431 challenge is to enhance individual expression of the fruit whilst ensuring even ripening. This year picking was slightly early; the call was based on the tannin and flavour profile, where floral notes and vibrancy of flavour took preference. “There was a swing towards whole bunch fruit this year which will deliver texture, layered tannins and juicy acid profile,” Ben said.
Stephen Dempster thinks the fruit from Claim 431 Vineyard was looking spectacular this year. “The Terraces Block, which is planted with clone 777, is a vintage standout”, he said. Stephen went onto describe the fruit as looking very ‘sexy’ (in viticulturist terms – this is a very good thing!).
Our aromatic utopia, The Waipara Valley, produced some exceptional fruit this vintage, with the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay standing out in superb condition.
The harvest couldn't have been more different from start to finish. For the first half, there was three weeks of settled, mild weather where delicious, ripe fruit was both machine and hand harvested. This was followed by three weeks of relentless rain which provided its challenges to the crews, however fruit quality was paramount and the aromatic varietals the region is renowned for; Pinot Gris and Riesling, are looking sharp in their current fermenting state.
The 2014 vintage was big and gutsy, pulling and pushing all involved to their limits, but all with great spirits. There are some fantastic stories coming out of the woodwork, ones that can be laughed about, now that vintage is over. Within the Marlborough team there was a ‘pie chart’ measuring the almost daily intake of pies. The Scotsman, our Grower Viticulturist Logie Mackenzie took out the honours, inhaling a total of 23 pies, out of the 63 which were consumed over the 39 days of vintage.