Vintage Report 2019
Grace Vineyard Vintage Report 2019
The revolution in winemaking & viticulturing has evolved with time over the last few decades, from modernize winemaking moving backward to a more traditional / natural approach; commercial vineyards are moving towards organic / Biodynamic, and in recent debates about the risk increase by poor vintage condition due to minimal human intervention in vineyard growing. Some international trends even moving towards single sited winemaking and some are still on multi site/regional. The ongoing debates on which are actually producing better quality wine than others can be quite confusing.
Single vineyard or multi-regional? In our opinion, no doubt single vineyard / single site winemaking has the ability to reflect a unique terroir, but having wines growing in various locations offers benefits / options in selection and as a result in better quality control in the finish wine in each vintage – ability to eradicate vineyard style variation as well as fluctuations in quality. We were lucky to have the chance to produce wine out of both worlds, since some of our series are single sited and some are regional blends.
Back to this report: 2019 for us is another year full of anxiety. In short for our own vineyards: A rocky starts with a steady finish.
Slow bud break in April with a small percentage of frost damage. Unusual weather condition within April to late May this year – excess drought causing slow growth in the vineyard. A rather dry and cold June to July weather condition causing uneven flowering, in particular to Merlot. The fruits set has been slightly slower and we were expecting smaller berries and cluster weight this year.
Early harvest of Chardonnay for this year by around 10 days compared to the past 5 years. The harvested fruits with good amount of acidity and flavor ripeness. The early harvest did indicate in our GDD (Growing Degree Days) record in our weather station, it was the highest for July and August over the past 7 years.
The weather stayed relatively dry and warm throughout the month of August to September.
Some stressful time happened when we received 40mm rain over 3 days in early September. A small proportion of lower block Cabernet Sauvignon showed signs of split berries (due to excess moisture uptake from the rain). The vineyard crew spent days in vineyard checking through the berries condition to make sure they were fine. With improved canopy & vineyard management over the years, the vineyard’s fruits did hold up pretty well.
The condition stayed dry, fine (albeit unusual for Shanxi) until harvest. We still received high-ish temperature towards October, allowing the last pick Cabernet Sauvignon & Marselan to be hung in the vineyard for a longer period. We believe that as long as the cluster is still in contact with the roots, the vine’s root can still transmit a little more character of place to the cluster, in this case the final wine.
A renowned winemaker once said: “the extra days or weeks of grapes hang in the vineyard will have a dramatic changes in final wine style.” We totally agree as long as the nature allows.
Several sand storm within April & May causing similar amount of damage in year 2018. We decided to start on another variety trial in Ningxia to explore the potential of the site. We set up a small experimental vineyard, some interesting Georgian & Italian varieties were planted. We could only find out more about the suitability and potential of these varieties from 2023 onwards.
In June, unusual high amount of rainfall during berry set stage, it actually did help a bit in this stressful vineyard (but never for Shanxi vineyard). Hail storm incident happened in some other vineyards within this region. We were lucky this round.
In early September, a small proportion of bird damage in our Merlot vineyard. For us, this maybe a good sign of early ripening this year? Followed by constant rain causing temperature dropped drastically through out mid September to mid October.
We began the harvest with Merlot on 25th September and completed by 4th October, while the Cabernet Franc and Shiraz were picked around the same time, few days later than the Merlot.
Cabernet Sauvignon were still hanging in the vineyard until mid October, where the weather pattern has turned ugly on us. Sudden temperature dropped, and the weather forecast was changing from thunderstorm to light rain and then it began to snow. This was the second time happened to this vineyard, the previous one was in 2017.
Shanxi always has the tendency to ripen later than Ningxia region (in general), but this year was the other way round.
In the Cellar:
In April, blending of 2017 Reserve wine. They have spent above 12 months in oak, all of them grown into the directions as we have wished. Due to the vintage condition in 2017, we picked a portion of fruits at sub mature and it does show in the finish wine, but we thought lightly vegetal / spice component in the final wine can be very seductive in long run.
As always, Ningxia offers good density / base / foundation wines and Shanxi always carries the aromatic component in the blend.
The quality of 2019 harvest ?
A rather interesting year, each individual parcel of our vineyards perform slightly differently. Some parcel of the fruits shows very high potential for aging with great depth, some are rather light and refreshing. Overall? A promising looking harvest. With carefully watch over the oak aging program, it will reflect the finest of 2019 harvest.
Life's too short to drink bad wine!
Grace Vineyard Team.