2021 VINTAGE REPORT
- Time of issue:2022-01-05
2021 VINTAGE REPORT
- Time of issue:2022-01-05
Grace Vineyard Vintage Report 2021
The worldwide pandemic makes everyone revisiting the norm.
For winemaking industry, several countries practice social distancing during vintage period, by having 2 to 3 separate teams of cellar hands who are contactless from one team to another. This is to avoid any unnecessary risks of spreading the virus which may result in shutting down the whole harvest.
For the commercial field, most of the international wineries conduct online Masterclass rather than presenting in person. Everyone learns to adapt.
With current market trend, natural wine is one of the great successes over the past 10 years or so. Various ongoing debates about how “natural” wine should be in order to be labeled as “natural wine”. Some claim that the term “natural wine” applies to those wines with obvious fault, ie: cloudy, spoilage bacteria with off-odors. Some extremists even perceive some wineries will call their product “natural wine” only when they have a batch of faulty wine. By labeling it as “Natural wine”, the wine generally will still be accepted by the consumers.
The general concept of natural wine is one made from biodynamic or organic practice vineyards and fermentation is conducted under wild yeast and has no sulfur added (perhaps a small dose is allowed at bottling). Only until recent years, some countries begun to set up regulations and certifications on the amount of sulfur added is allowed. Yet the debates within the winemaker, commercial & consumer are still going on.
In our opinion, making good wine requires certain technicalities. Right beginning from the vineyard, the process path to the finished wine in the bottle, requires sets of protective measures. In fact, a good bottle of natural wine demands more skill in these processes because most of the protective measures on traditional winemaking practices are taken away from the winemaker.
In practical, we believe “low intervention” is the way to go for the future, no matter it is conventional, organic, biodynamic, or natural winemaking.
Back to this report:
A steady start for Shanxi within the months of April to July, the condition stayed relatively favorable for vegetation growth in the vineyard. The cropping level was in balance with open canopy, which particularly important for our vineyard in Shanxi. With the tendency of rain in August to October, open canopy encouraged sunlight to penetrate through the canopies and clusters while encouraging airflow.
A fairly dry August brought us to Chardonnay harvest. A very good year for Chardonnay, in terms of quantity & quality. Fruits received were at optimum ripeness with good aromatic & acidity ratio.
The pressure was on at the beginning of September, we managed to harvest the Merlot at good maturity on time before the down pouring rain began. The conditions stayed harsh for the vineyard and the harvest window remained closed until mid-October. In fact, it was the highest amount of recorded rainfall over the past 30+ years in Shanxi Province. The rain did cause some damages to the local agricultural commodities. Several villages in the low-lying area were evacuated for flood hazards.
By comparing the harvest data for the last 10-plus years, 2021 was the most disastrous year in terms of the amount of rain and the condition of the fruits while 2007 came in as the second worst. Yet, with improved canopy management and knowledge in understanding our vineyard, we manage to secure some good quality fruits for our flagship series.
Vigorous selection in the vineyard during the harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon & Marselan, we discarded up to 40% of fruits that were badly affected by the rain. The results were rather promising. These two won’t be as rich or strengthful as 2019 or 2015, but they will be more restrained in style. It should be close to the 2009 vintage in terms of overall quality.
A rather smooth growing condition from the beginning until harvest compared to Shanxi. Even though the vineyard was experiencing a slight uneven bud break to begin with. The inconsistency during bud break might be caused by low-ish soil temperature over the last winter and damaged some of the young shallow roots. Some sections of the vineyard bud break were later than usual by around 2 weeks.
As usual, the extremely dry condition in Ningxia required good amount of irrigation to make sure the vines stayed happy.
Harvest began slightly early with Merlot on 11 September & completed in mid-October. Followed by Cabernet Franc & Cabernet Sauvignon. Shiraz was in about the same time as previous years, a very important component for our new series – Interval.
New varietal trials on Italian & Georgian were yielding for the first time which looks promising. We usually will work on several more harvests (vineyard and winemaking trial) first, will decide when to release them into the market by then. If everything works well, we should be welcoming a new family member for our Tasya’s Reserve series in the next few years.
Quality of 2021?
The Chardonnay shows good varietal ripeness with well acidity balance. For the red varieties, the yield was down by 40% due to the natural of the harvest & vigorous selection to remove unwanted fruits for winemaking. The Shanxi will turn out to be much restrained and finely structured in compare to previous vintages. For Ningxia, as always packed with intense color, abundance fruits weight & well textured. With carefully watching over the barrel-aging program, we should be able to reflect the finest potential of the 2021 harvest.
The new normal?
The blending of 2019 wines, a second pandemic blending session in Hong Kong due to various restrictions on traveling. This year we were much more prepared as samples have been tasted together with the key technical members multiple times prior to the final blending.
The high GDD (Growing Degree Days) & unusual dry conditions towards harvest in Shanxi do show through in the blend. The flagships series shows plenty of ripe fruits component yet packed with freshness & length.
In the cellar
Everything was well organized over the harvest work this year, thanks to the well experienced cellar team. A minor hiccup due to pandemic restriction towards the end of the vintage but it did not cause many inconveniences.
We hope everyone stays safe and stay alert, raise a glass for a brighter future.
Life’s too short to drink bad wine!
Team Grace Vineyard.
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