Spring was good to us this year with a normal weather pattern which saw the soil temperatures reach an average of 10 C for bud burst in mid April. The vines accelerated smoothly towards flowering at the end of April.
Fine sunny days are necessary for even flowering. By early May our vineyard staff were able, in their first of three crop estimations for the year, to predict a better than average crop.
As spring rolled into summer with air temperatures reaching the mid 30’s C,vine growth continued and leaf removal began. This technique removes leaves around grape bunches to allow greater sunshine penetration and allows air movement within the vine canopy.
Several rain periods in July meant our team was kept busy keeping mildew at bay. At the same time we were monitoring berry enlargement. We received enough rainfall to ensure the vines had adequate moisture for the remainder of the season.
The end of July marked the end of summer heat and conditions became milder for the remainder of the season - day after day of 25 – 28C days and 18C nights.
A long slow ripening period ensured grapes with finesse and structure. All varieties responded well. Chardonnay was exceptional and we processed grapes for our third Methode Champenoise sparkling wine together with excellent wine for barrel fermented Reserve Chardonnay.
The Merlot and Cabernet Franc harvests began in late September with pleasing sugar levels of up to 23.5 Brix (13.0 Baume). Grape pH was also low at around 3.2 leading to wines with good depth of colour.
Cabernet Sauvignon was picked in fine weather during the second week of October. All grapes retained good acidity thanks to the mild autumn weather and will get to bottle at around 6 gram/litre.
Our grapes from Ningxia had no issues with rainfall and yielded grapes in perfect condition. The wines have good colour and enough alcohol to give them strength. Although Cabernet Sauvignon was the dominant grape we also have some pleasing Merlot from this province.
The climate in Ningxia is an interesting one. While receiving almost identical amounts of sunshine and heat as Grace Vineyard, it receives on average 175mm of rain per year compared with the 450mm received at Grace Vineyard. Water, when needed by the vines is supplied from the Yellow River.
The Ningxia wines are full and fleshy and I believe they are the ideal blending partner for Grace Vineyard wines. I expect the fullness and suppleness of the Ningxia wines to be balanced by the elegance and tannin structure of the Grace Vineyard wines.
An interesting blending time lies ahead.
Chief Winemaker and Viticulturalist