Vintage Report 2022
Team Grace Vineyard
Harvest decision is one of the key factor influencing grapes quality.
A complex and debatable topic on “when” and “how” will directly impact on the quality of wine over the common motive of “great wine start with great vineyard”. Most wineries have a standard quality procedures for specific wine style and harvest parameter to maintain which is very common in international winemaking scene.
For the majority of the vineyard growing region in mainland, the variables of the natural conditions make it relatively tougher to keep the quality grapes each year. Conditions include precipitation, extreme winter temperature and the need of burying the vines over winter.
For larger scale wineries, it may be extravagant to access vineyard row by row and so lots of the decision made are data-oriented. Due to their large scale, more time is needed for picking, so they may have to begin the harvest at slightly submature grapes stage, otherwise it may have high risk of yield loss.
For smaller size wineries, they maybe able to push the limit a bit further, allowing most fruits to reach a even more mature stage because the number of days required for harvesting work is fewer and make this practice feasible.
The critical fundamental for both are: high quality wine is the “cross road” between amount of varietal aromas accumulated in grapes and the reduction of immature tannin – the lost of green and herbaceous character to fruit flavor with the ideal amount of sugar/acid balance, while balancing the risk from the natural.
For us at Grace, we do enjoy pushing the boundaries of the vineyard each year to unveil the full potential of the vintage. The aim is to achieve as much ripeness of varietal flavor and polymerization of the tannin for a more textural wine. Thus, canopy management throughout the growing season is crucial.
It always come down to the designated style of wine one aim to achieve. Some may take less ripeness flavor as “freshness” or “approachable”. Others may prefer a well matured, dense, bold and silky profile of the mature grapes.
Winemaking philosophy of “low-intervention” is arguably the most discussed topic in the industry and yet still vague in standard practicing. Some claim that without too much technical interference (example: without the use of chemical in the vineyard, without sulfur dioxide application, commercial yeast strain, filtration & etc) can be considered as “low-intervention”. In our opinion, cutting back the unnecessary processes from year to year at the manageable level is the overall trend. Over the past decade we have gradually cut back the use of Sulfur Dioxide, simplify the winemaking processes & increase the percentage of wild yeast ferment each vintage. The benefit? We do see a brighter fruits profile & less astringency in the finished wine over the years.
A brief note of the harvest 2022:
Warm and wet July, almost tropical alike condition caused some pressures on diseases & mildew in the vineyard. We were pleased with the weather condition from August till harvest, it stayed reasonably calm.
Chardonnay was the first pick Sparkling wine for our Angelina series. The fruits were clean with bright acidity. The next came in was slightly low yielding, from the oldest blocks of Chardonnay.These fruits have always been designated for our Tasya’s Reserve series.
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon within September to October, both came in at perfect sugar/acid balance with a very pleasant fruit weight and not over powering for our flagship wine - Chairman’s Reserve. It should be a “classic” style this year with a reference vintage of 2004 & 2009 which are elegant and balance.
A rather calm weather condition after having 2 challenging vintage of 2020 and 2021. Bit of pressure was on towards the end of the harvest over drastically temperature drop and occasional rains. The overall style should be similar to 2017 & 2018 as a recent reference vintages, but with slightly lower alcohol level.
We are moving towards organic viticulture practice after 10 years of exploration in this region. In our opinion, as part of the strong philosophy in our winemaking practices - “less is more”.
Moving forward to the future, we should somehow “limit” ourselves in daily vineyard and wine management practices. To strain the vineyard a little further, cut back the chemical usage, encourage a more healthy environment for our vines to understand the potential of the site further.
For us, moving towards organic are not for the sake of having an “organic certified” label on our wines but rather as for our own exploring. The season has very much embraced this harvest, the overall condition was rather stable with good amount of moisture in August. The yield was down a little as compared to vintage of 2020 and 2021. In term of crop load, it was similar to 2019.
We began the harvest with Merlot in mid September and stretched through to early October. Merlot is the key component for Deep Blue, usually consists of 60% and above in the blend. It offers great depths, mid palate weight and fruits density in this wine.
Younger vines of Cabernet Franc & Shiraz harvested in between with very good varietal flavor profile. We planted these vineyards under traditional Ningxia canopy system known as “Independent Long Stem Pruning”. Usually such system is harder to achieve even maturity, but we think as for mid term ripening varieties such as Cabernet Franc & Shiraz, it is worth to revisit the local tradition. We believe with careful calibration within the canopy density, yield and harvest parameters, it will still be able to compose some complex fruits.
The blending quality of 2020 vintage:
Third year in the row have had to conduct blending trial in Hong Kong.
For our wines from Shanxi, the extended hang time until October does shine through in the blending session with great length and depths. For Ningxia, the later harvest Merlot are pretty impactful, offering great foundation for the flagship series. Overall quality is well kept and high.
Harvest of 2022?
Complicated. The working condition have been harder than usual with on and off lock-downs. The critical task of harvest decision has heavily relied on past experience of the team. In a normal year we spend at least twice a week discussing the maturity and harvest pattern together with the winemakers and viticulturist in the vineyard. This year we were unable to have these procedures as frequent as we wished. We were unable to travel as freely as usual due to the limitation of
traveling between provinces. High praise to our well-experienced team to carry the harvest 2022 through these cumbersome period.
We do hope the day without the concern over the lock down and normalcy will come to everyone very soon. Let’s raise a glass for a brighter future.
Life’s too short to drink bad wine!
Team Grace Vineyard.