Vine dormancy is a cold, cold period in Shanxi Province and no doubt our vines were pleased to feel some sunshine and warmth when we unearthed them in April. Winters at Grace Vineyard include temperatures as low as -20C. This is cold enough to kill grapevines so we go to considerable effort to bury the vines with 30-40cm of soil in December before the really cold weather strikes, providing insulation against the extreme temperatures.
Spring growth was strong, although by the time flowering commenced our Viticultural team and farmers were muttering about the size of flower clusters. Not as good (large) as last year was the word, but we could only be patient and wait for the bunch development.
Smaller bunches are a mixed blessing. On the one hand they provide us with grapes with a stronger colour and more intense flavour, but on the other, yield is reduced.
We always expect some summer rain, but it did not arrive until mid September. Prior to this, we were able to pick Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc in ideal conditions – both made excellent wines. Of special interest from 2009 (and a lot of excitement in the winery), will be our first sparkling wine, a Blanc de Blanc in the Methode Champenois. This is a traditionally made “Champagne” style wine – fermented and aged in the bottle.
The rain interfered a little with our red wine harvest, forcing us to pick earlier than we would have liked. We were thankful for the upgrade to our grape receival area; the increased capacity allowing us to pick very quickly once the picking decision was made.
The winery worked long and hard. It was important that we extract every ounce of flavour from the grapes. Not surprisingly, Cabernet Sauvignon was the best performer. It carries the smallest, toughest berries.
This was a vintage which showed us where our best grapes were grown. Generally the 2009 wines do not have the depth of colour and flavour of the 2008 red wines, but there are certainly parcels of wine which have a wonderful elegance and finesse. I look forward with interest, to watching their development in barrel.
Chief Winemaker and Viticulturalist