A good amount of winter & spring rain provided a good subsoil moisture to set the vineyard ready for 2016. Warmer than usual April temperature encouraged strong start in (bud burst). We went through a several vineyard tasks before June which included bud rubbing (removal of unwanted buds) & shoot positioning.
June temperature was a little lower than a normal year which stagnanted the growth, followed by unexpected multiple period of strong rain (over 100mm) in July, causing high diseases pressures - downy mildew in several blocks of our vineyards.
Veraison, is a process of berries developmentwith colour change from green / hard to coloured; accumulation of soluble solids (sugar); and
reduction in acids. In our opinion, veraison is the most
important period. Close monitor in the vineyard conditions is needed.
Decisions made based on the vineyard conditions during the veraison period can directly affect the quality of the wine. This year, the color change was slower than usual, probably caused by high soil moisture and insufficient ambient temperature. It was slow and long, took approximately 1 to 1.5 months to complete. Based on our vineyard data, the harvest for this year would, at least, be late by 1.5 to 2 weeks. To compensate the potential late seasons, we started the leaves removal job earlier to maximize warmth in the bunch zone.
We began the harvest in August for Chardonnay. August had
smaller amount of rain and considerably cooler weather. It helped to keep the fresh fruits character and
acidity prior the harvest. Aglianico came in next, although it was a little less ripened than what we wanted (due to rain and high soil moisture), it will most likely be similar quality as our 2012 harvest.
A small proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon & Marselan were
thinned (green harvest) in late August to achieve a much balanced vine between foliage. Over-cropping or unbalance vines tend to slow down the ripening and possibly result in lower quality wine.
We started a small proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in late September to make our 2017 New year wines. This has been the 6th years inmaking this wine and we always aim for fresh red fruits and good acidity in the finished wine.
We were pretty luck at the later of the season in October, as the weather stayed mild, cool with very little rain which allowed us to harvest at its optimum ripeness.
For our vineyard in Ningxia, we have had good access to water for irrigation this year. Good strong growth in several plots of the vineyards and the berries size have been slightly larger than the past year. It may be good for the yield but not necessarily for the quality. Vines need little water compare with some other crops, over watering encourages shoot vigour and thus causes slow ripening.
The winemaking crew spent weeks of work tracking the vineyards stages before harvest; walking through the vineyard to take the fruits samples & to do the tasting in order to decide the harvest date and pattern.
The harvest began with the Merlot. It had been a slow and long process as we broke it down into several blocks depending on the maturity level / vigorous of the vines. It took us 3 weeks to complete the harvest for Merlot. Cabernet Sauvignon came in last, in mid October as always, with good maturity level.
The wines of 2016?
The chardonnay are expressive with good varietal character; the reds from Ningxia are quite black, solid with balance structured; while the Shanxi ones always shows its delicate and fineness. Both are still showing a little abrasive at the moment, but the rough edge should berounded by time in barrels.
Wine-making consists of both Art and Science. The Art is always from the tasting and the sensible feel of the vineyards. The Science comes in as the laboratory work on measuring the acidity, soluble solids & etc…. and most importantly making sure the wine are “safe” until the final bottling. Both Art & Science are equally important for a successful vintage.