A slightly warmer average temperature (14.2 C) and 30.0 mm of rain saw our vines off to a flying start. Strong growth continued into May and June when flowering took place in ideal conditions.
Warm July temperatures combined with more significant rainfall made us wonder if the vines were having too much of a good thing. While hot and moist conditions will produce abundant growth this is not ideal for the growing vine destined to produce fruit for wine. A small amount of stress caused by dry conditions programs the vine to think of its crop rather than only growing leaves and shoots. Remember that a vines berries and seeds are really only present so that the vine can reproduce itself, and if the emphasis is on growing shoots, bunches will become secondary.
Incidentally this is why birds attack grapes. They eat the seeds and then distribute them around the region as a way of propagating the plant. We in the wine industry have another agenda of course in that we want mature grapes for good wine.
The ideal growing conditions continued into August and September. During the April to October growing season we were to have an amount of 442mm and it was cause for concern. Ripening was interrupted and we were forced to making picking decisions that didn’t really suit us.
Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc both came in before the rain and we have some excellent sparkling base wines in tank. Red wines were a mixed lot with some of the wine being suited to Vineyard Series table wine, but other blocks where we had deliberately reduced crop and irrigation making elegant, stylish wines that we are looking forward to tasting after Malolactic fermentation.
Our fruits from Ning xXia were very exciting with both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot ripening to levels we haven’t seen at the winery before. We have always thought that in general vineyards in Ningxia tend to receive too much irrigation and so adjusted this factor in our own vineyard. The result is wines that are of deep colour and with great length and balance. How and if the two regions come together in the blending room only time will tell.
So, it was a mixed year. Some very good wines but all in all the rain and a cool September had us thinking what might have been.
Chief Winemaker and Viticulturalist