Year 2008 was one the driest on record in the Taigu area of Shanxi Province. Only 220 mm of rain fell between June and October. Combined with slightly above temperatures it was an ideal growing season for us as vines were able to concentrate on grape production.
It was good news as winter had been quite severe resulting in the loss of approximately 20 per cent of our newly planted vineyard, due to freeze damage – a timely reminder of the perverse climate that we have chosen to grow vines and produce wine.
The subject of marginal climates for producing high quality wine is a long and involved discussion but it is enough to say that a small amount of hardship on the part of the vine produces better quality grapes – the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest.
Despite the dry conditions we had sufficient underground water to apply to our young, establishing vineyards. Our mature vineyards received less irrigation than normal but were untroubled. Once again we thanked those who chose the site for Grace Vineyard for its deep soils. Our vines are exploring these soils at depth now and require little supplementary moisture.
Flowering, fruit set and veraison all took place at a leisurely pace and sugar accumulated evenly from late August onwards.
Chardonnay harvest began on September 2nd. The results were good with our highest ever maturity levels adding richness to the wines. The effect was similar on Chenin Blanc which was picked shortly afterwards.
The Merlot harvest followed in mid September after a brief pause for light rains, with sugar levels reaching 23.8% (converts to 13.2% alcohol). The wines have the best flavour profile that I have seen in my time at Grace Vineyard and are particularly well balanced.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc also excited our winery team with their maturity and structure.
Quality across the whole vineyard was pleasing enough to warrant the importation of further quantities of barrels from France.
I am sure the 2008 wines will continue to grow in stature. At this early stage Merlot appears to be the star of the vintage, but I have no doubt that Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc will close the quality gap during their 12 – 18 month sojourn in barrel.
Chief Winemaker and Viticulturalist