When you’re working directly with the land and Mother Nature throws a curve ball, it’s always hugely gratifying when the end result is still something to be really proud of. This was the theme of the 2017 harvest for Mud House, thanks to great preparation in the vineyard. Just like the build up to any harvest, the winemakers and viticulture teams alike had butterflies of anticipation and fire in their bellies, watching the grapes swell and ripen.
On Thursday March 24 the first Pinot Noir was hand-picked off the Woolshed Vineyard in Marlborough, which was filled with red cherry flavours and vibrant acids.
Mud House Winemaker Cleighten Cornelius was particularly impressed with the Pinot Noir from both ends of the South Island this year, a superb foundation for both the Rosé Pinot Noir, and the Pinot Noir wines. “There were great pure floral flavours of dark cherry, plum and raspberry notes, with a slightly more red cherry spectrum with the Marlborough Pinot Noir,” he said.
Cleighten added that although the rain events during harvest did slow ripening, the fruit picked went through fermentation well and looked very smart. He said this year’s Single Vineyard Woolshed Sauvignon Blanc boasted classic lower Wairau valley herbaceous characteristics of gooseberry, grapefruit, blackcurrant leaf, elegance and finesse, with tropical notes.
Mud House Viticulturist Tracy Taylor was particularly impressed with the final Sauvignon Blanc pick at the end of harvest, with the last of the fruit coming off the vines on April 28. “It had great purity of flavour, the Sauvignon Blanc berries were a beautiful golden colour,” she said.
Leading up to harvest, Tracy said a slightly lighter crop this year meant she was looking forward to concentrated flavours and good acidity. “And we knew that harvest was going to be later than it had been in previous years due to the coolness of spring and much of summer.”
Reflecting back on the build up to harvest, Woolshed Vineyard Manager Nev Gane, who also oversees harvesting across the region, said the Sauvignon Blanc was looking outstanding and the flavours were good. Despite the frustration of the rain events just after the first of the Sauvignon Blanc was harvested, Nev said attention to detail from the winemaking, viticulture and harvesting team meant the best of the fruit was harvested to ensure what rolled into the winery boasted flavour and texture.
“It’s good to have such a great bunch of guys returning year after year,” he said fondly of his harvesting team.
In North Canterbury’s Waipara region, the home of our Single Vineyard Home Block Pinot Gris, the grapes changed flavour profiles slightly, depending if the fruit was picked during the earlier or later weeks of harvest. Cleighten said from pure pear and apple tones, to subtle spice, the texture was great, flavours are developing well in the winery.
Down at Bendigo in Central Otago, home of our Single Vineyard Claim 431 Pinot Noir and often one of the earliest ripening sub regions due to the north facing vines, Vineyard Manager Tom Bullen said the hand-picked fruit had vibrant healthy skins with a beautiful deep blue colour and cherry and plum notes, backed up with precise bright and balanced flavours.
“The colours and quality of the fruit was awesome, I’m thrilled with the efforts of the team down here at Bendigo,” said Tom, who added that the harvest crew had a ball, with a lot of picking and laughing happening under the beautiful Central Otago sun.
Lou Nisbet is part of the furniture in the vineyard crew at Bendigo, and every year she buzzes with the same enthusiasm. “It’s always sad to say goodbye to summer, but this year, as usual, once we get started, harvest seems to take on its own momentum. That really is my favourite part of harvest, the energy,” she said.
The snow-capped mountains, fantastic light and beautiful autumn colours always provides a bounty of atmosphere. Lou added that the hand-picking crew who grace the rows year after year from Vanuatu work hard all season to help produce the quality product that is picked. “This year the grapes were visually stunning, I loved the look of them, and the taste was great. I felt like a proud mother!”
With the wine now tucked away in barrel and tank, the entire Mud House team is looking forward to tasting the final product, reaped from a challenging harvest where they proved curve balls can be dodged when the foundations are set down right.