Vintage Report 2018
Grace Vineyard Vintage report 2018
2018, 2 decades in wine growing may means nothing in most of the winemaking regions in the world. But for us at Grace Vineyard, it simply means we have achieved another milestone, in a sense that we have survived another 10 years. Our oldest blocks of vineyard have achieved year number 20.
2018 is another anxious year. It has not been easy for both of our vineyards in Shanxi & Ningxia.
The path to harvest this year with a rough opening. From the record, it has been the 4th spring frost incident over the pasts 20 years. We were lucky this round, it was a minor one where it just affected a small block of Chardonnay & Merlot.
Good amount of rainfall received over the months of April to June while with slightly lower temperature received in June comparing to the pasts 6 years. It affected the vineyard a little, ample amount of moisture encouraged strong vegetative growth while the low growing degree days (GDD) in June slowed down the -fruit set and color changing (veraison) process.
Good amount of heat received in the month of August to mid September accelerated the ripening process. Occasional rain helped to cool down night time temperature which helped to maintain the natural acidity in fruits.
Newly expanded vineyard of Aglianico & Marselan begin to yield (we re-planted a small portion of under-performed vineyard with these varieties within 2014 ~ 2016). Our Aglianico & Marselan were first planted in 2006. With nearly 10 years of viticulture and winemaking experience, we decided to expand these two varieties for further ventures as they have performed consistently well over the past few years from the records.
In our experience, young vines tend to yield fruits with less phenolic maturity and tend to be less “stable” in terms of quality.
There have been discussions about the phenolic maturity comparing older vine & younger age vines. In our opinion, it largely depends on how the vineyard is managed, which are: how it is planted, the vines canopy management, the density of the vineyard, cluster of fruits per vines, amount of sun exposure, the rootstock application and etc. Our case with young vines in Shanxi region, we believe shallow roots system of young vine does have a direct impact on moisture & heat uptake. In particular to our region in Shanxi, it has the tendency to receive more moisture (rainfall) throughout the growing to ripening seasons.
Harvest in this region begins with Chardonnay as usual, in late August. Decision on harvest with white varieties in this region is rather critical in particular with Chardonnay, a thin skin varieties and extremely susceptible to diseases such as grey rots. Base on our weather data, it shows summer rain may hit the vineyard anytime from August onwards. This year we were lucky to make the right choice, yielding in the juice/wine with clean-balance flavour and great level of acidity.
Merlot harvest began on 14 September and finished on 3rd October varying from the vineyard block and soil profile. Next was Cabernet Franc, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon & Marselan which both tended to ripen around the same time.
Unusual sand storm hit our vineyard twice early in the season, dated 10 May & 20 May. It blew off the new tender shoot, causing yield lost of approximate 25% ~ 40% on various vineyard sites & varieties. We ran our initial yield forecast in July after the fruits set, it showed extremely low yield ranging from 150Kg to 300Kg per MU (2 to 4 Tons per hactare). We were hoping the natural “green harvest”(by sand storm) would yield us high concentrated fruits this year.
Unexpected frost hit the region on 22 September, several growers' blocks within this region were badly affected by frost which stopped the maturation of fruits.
For our own block which has consistently delivered us Reserve quality fruits were lucky this time, being unaffected by the frost. Careful and repeat sampling were conducted in the vineyard prior to harvest and monitored the phenolic ripeness level over the months of September (at least 2 visits to the vineyards per week) to look for ideal maturity level.
The first pick was Merlot in late September, followed by Shiraz and Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Sauvignon came in later after 2 weeks with decent maturity level.
It has been very critical this year in Ningxia when making the initial selection in the vineyard during harvest, followed by the second selection by hand before crushing. Some portion of the fruits even had to go through berries sorting after the de-stemming in order to further remove unwanted fruits and/or berries which considered as not suitable for winemaking.
In the Cellar
The cellar crew began to rack out some 2016 wines from barrel to make space for 2018 harvest from June onwards. Pre harvest preparation began in August by keeping the winery space & facilities sanitized. Work have been planned in an orderly manner this year. Special thanks to the well-experienced cellar & vineyard crew this year.
The Wines of 2018？
There is no easy vintage every year. This year has been harder one than usual harvests due to lot's of challenges from the nature in both regions. A much more focus effort and work have place into viticulture & winemaking. We do hope the wine will shine in the next 12 to 24 months as we believe it takes time, patience and passion in wine.
Life's too short to drink bad wine, Cheers!