2015 has been an interesting year for our vines. It started slow, followed by several pressures from the nature but ends up with good results.
In 2014 spring, we pruned the vines back “hard” to encourage new growth on the following year. This is particularly an important job for our first planted vineyard in 1998 for few reasons: 1) To ease the vineyard burying work in the next winter, and 2) To enable it to grow sufficient new fruitful shoots, 3) To give the vines a “refreshment” and maintain a desire vine shape that ease the work for our vineyard workers.
Base on our years of experience with dry-farming, it has shown positive result. All of the grapes we got from dry-farming block ends up in our flagship blend & reserve series. In 2015 we decided to apply this practice across our vineyards in Shanxi.
A slow start in April, where the temperature was a little lower than usual causing some delay in the budburst, also several misleading frost forecast which concerned us a little throughout May.
Temperature reached 33°C and much needed rainfall in mid-June accelerated vine growth, while summer trimming began in the vineyard by removing secondary shoots to ensure vines balance and open canopy.
The first veraison began in early July for Aglianico which has came by 1.5 week earlier than a normal year. This happened across other red varieties too. The credit goes to the warm temperature in July this year. A good vineyard history told us that the harvest of 2015 would probably be earlier than normal year because of the warm July. Lignification in the shoot and stem began during veraison for Cabernets, rarely seen in the year with high soil moisture (or vineyards requires irrigation). Lignification is always a good sign for phenolic maturity and loses of green/vegetal flavour towards the harvest.
August is a challenging month. First we received higher than normal rainfall rate, followed by hailstorm and lastly the birds. All happened in the same month!
The 135mm of rainfall in August increased the pressure on early ripening variety, chardonnay. We always expected rain in August so precaution work plans have been in place by the vineyard crew. It was a busy month indeed: removing unwanted bunches from the vineyards and removing leaves to ensure a more open canopy to encourage airflow within vineyard. Extra attention was given to our Chardonnay vineyard this year, especially after we have lost the opportunity to produce Tasya’s Reserve Chardonnay for 2 years in a row: the late frost in 2013 we lost all of the fruits for winemaking; and then the wet summer in 2014 we were forced to pick slightly earlier than what we wanted in terms of maturity level.
The hail storm this year affected a portion of Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot which we have never expected to see this coming as there has been no history records shown similar to this over the past 15 years.
Birds’ visits have come earlier than usual this year. They can be very friendly to the vineyard in some seasons but definitely not this time of the year. Very smart of them as they know which berries ripened first which is another indication of early harvest.
The harvest began in late August for Chardonnay. We were very pleased with the ripeness level of 12.00 Baume and 7.30 TA which gave us a very good base material for barrel fermentation and the wines from it are designated for our Tasya’s Reserve. The following variety being harvested was Aglianico, an Italian variety we planted since 2006. This year, 2015 has been our 3rd harvest for winemaking. We are happy to see abundance spicy fruits with balanced tannins in the wine now.
Merlot & Cabernet Franc were harvested in September. Both varieties came into the winery with clean fruits and showed good varietal flavors. In the same month, we received some Shiraz from our vineyard in Ningxia. It had great ripeness level with strong character & color depth, although a small proportion of shrivel berries due to the dry condition in Ningxia.
There were several days with light rain & drizzle through October in between the harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon & Marselan, it turned out prolonging the harvest for weeks. However, the waiting was worthwhile. The extra time helped to accumulate more phenolic flavors in the fruits while decreased the vegetative aroma. Two-stages-sorting took place during harvest: first stage was done in the vineyard where we trained the pickers what we wanted for winemaking and what to discard; second stage was in the winery for cluster selection.
How the wine has been going? The Chardonnay is quite expressive with good acidity balance and the red varieties displaying good structure and freshness. Both reds and whites are looking great. We look forward to the blending session for vintage 2015 in the next 12 – 18 months. Time will tell if the hard work will be paid off. Cheers!