We began the season as usual, by unearthing our vines after their long underground dormancy. This is a tedious job which the farmers carry out using nothing but a shovel. Considering the earth mound over the vines is around 35 – 40 cm in depth it is no easy task. Vines are pruned before burying in November so that they emerge ready to go.
As soil temperatures (10 C) activate the biological process of budburst it is reasonably simple to predict the timing of new growth.
After a slightly bumpy start which saw us with a little frost damage. Yield was reduced but the effect on quality was enhanced. The normal pattern of warm sunny weather which followed resulted in rapid vine growth.
Flowering took place in ideal conditions towards the end of April and fruit set (berries forming) was exceptional, meaning well formed clusters, especially in Cabernet Sauvignon.
May continued to be fine and warm and berry size increased rapidly. In June the rains arrived and stayed with us for several weeks. Our vineyard team was, however, equal to the task and managed to keep the vineyard disease free.
At this time we have the farmers carry out “leaf plucking” which is the removal of 60% of the vine leaves adjacent to the bunches. This achieves two things. Firstly it allows more air movement around bunches and the drying effect of the air helps to reduce disease. Secondly, exposing bunches to direct sunlight helps to increase berry colour and reduce acidity in the lead up to harvest.
Chardonnay grapes for our sparkling base wine were picked towards the end of August and again we were very happy with the results. It is called base wine as it is the first step in making sparkling wine by the classic Methode Champenois (secondary fermentation in bottle).
In mid September we began to get excited. Sugar and flavour levels began to rise much more rapidly than usual.
We picked excellent Merlot and Cabernet Franc – the Cabernet Franc is possibly the best we have seen at Grace Vineyard with Merlot also impressing us at the end of fermentation.
Some of us in the winery think that Cabernet Sauvignon surpassed everything but that is judgment we will make after the wines have finished Malolactic fermentation and have spent some time in barrel.
Certainly, all of the red wines have very good colour together with excellent structure depth and body. Truly a vintage to anticipate.
Chief Winemaker and Viticulturalist