Vintage Report 2023
Team Grace Vineyard
Grace Vineyard Vintage Report 2023
2023 is a year that everyone has been eagerly awaited, when normalcy finally return. One notable change is the comeback of international wine brands, so are the comeback of events and fairs. The number and scale of the events and fairs organized in 2023 have almost doubled compared to the pre-pandemic era, making up for lost time maybe.
Among our own wineries, there have been a spirit of friendly competition (which was rarely seen in the past). Maybe it is our way of showing we are determined not just to bounce back but to do even better.
As things got back to normal, did any of you quietly miss the slow pace, calm & peace it brought to us? Maybe yes, maybe no? Anyway, let’s get back to this report.
A fairly stable start towards the mid-season followed by rainy days in the middle of the growing season, which helped the vegetative growth in the vineyard. The condition stayed fairly dry towards the ripening seasons until the end.
The first harvest was again our Angelina series Sparkling wine Chardonnay, with ideal acidity and textural white fruits & light floral notes from this year.
Under the ideal conditions, we too harvested some red for our Blanc de Noir, is which under the same series. A rather astonishing dry condition in September towards mid-October, allowing us to set the harvest windows based on ripeness level, a condition rarely seen for the Shanxi region. The very last few dry seasons over harvest were dated back to vintage 2008, 2015 & 2019, when we crafted some of our finest flagship wines.
Slow start and temperature dropped fairly quickly towards the end of harvest. Relatively high temperature in July caused some issues in some of the red varieties, unexpected drought at the beginning of ripening seasons & mid-season rainfall did put some pressure on the vineyard.
Based on our past experience, we have had to be patient under such conditions in Ningxia. We took in a portion of the fruit slightly earlier than we wanted (as an insurance) and allowed a large proportion of the fruits to be hung for extra weeks in the vineyard till the very end.
A rather cooler year compared to the previous one, we are expecting to see more freshness, spiciness, red fruits & little darker components in this vintage, whereas the previous one could get jam & tart if harvest windows were selected wrongly. The 2023 vintage will be showing more delicate, complex and possibly easier to approach at its young age.
Having work with low-sulfur winemaking for nearly a decade now, we are pleased to be able to pass through a few batches of grapes in the winery without any sulfur addition this year. The benefit of zero or low sulfur? It is more vividness on the fruit profile and less dryness in the taste.
Some arguable trends in the industry nowadays:
As general wine appreciation, it has been a guideline on how wine is supposed to taste like & what’s in the so-called “structure and clear limit”. In the educational system, it is to be considered as either defect or precision in wine: defects as flavour of volatile acidity, brettanomyces, cloudiness, premature oxidation & other related “off” flavour while precision as in “correct” varietal characteristic, style, regional style & etc.
This can be quite subjective for some winemakers as they believe it will strip off the natural & “soul” of the wine if it is made in a flawless, perfect & immaculate manner. Some may even claim this is rather a “factory-made-wine”.
Well, here comes the undefined area (at the least for some perfectionist) on the subject of the “soul” of wine. In the opinion wine has no “soul”, but it can reflect the taste of its origin. In other word, the wine should reflect the characteristics of the region or the vineyard location. When the flaws of the wines or the crafting method from the winemaker overtly mask the characteristic of the “soul”(or taste), is it definitely out of order?
One renowned wine writer once said “A wine may be flawless yet desperately dull”.We can’t agree more. As in our practice, we thought imperfection would create perfection. As a maker, we need to maximize/bring out the best possible characteristic from the vineyard each vintage, even under undesirable conditions. The aim is to minimize vintage variation as much as possible to achieve consistency. We believe in the path of crafting any successful brand or product, consistency is the key and it takes years (maybe decades) of coherence to acquire.
In a much clearer form of expression: We are minimalist, while in control of creating minimum “flaws” when come to wine growing, in many ways from tendering the vineyards to vinification.
A new chapter for us. We are pleased to have a wise elder to guide us through the process. Show us the correct path in crafting this mysterious liquid. The excitement always comes from the start of the distillation day and anxiety in anticipating the result of aging.
Similarity with wine? We always thought there is no “soul” in distillation but we do find the process of dancing with the spirit rather enjoyable. Still long way to go before our release, both wine & distillation require patience.
The blend of 2021 vintage, is a rather difficult vintage for our Shanxi vineyard. It was the worst we have ever received since the beginning of Grace Vineyard. We were forced to discard up to 40% of the whole harvest to shape this vintage and the outcome was rather encouraging. The Chairman’s Reserve has shown balance density with a great amount of freshness. High praise to the effort of the vineyard crew over harvest who underwent meticulous selection in securing the quality of 2021.
Ningxia offers a great foundation for our favorite making wine – Deep Blue in such difficult vintage for Shanxi. It will be pretty fleshy, possibly close to the texture of 2017 vintage.
Some new varieties that we first planted in 2011 are finally ready for release under the 2021 vintage, together with some lovely concrete-aged red varietals. We really love the brightness the concrete brings to the wines without imparting any oak flavors and the ability to raise the tannin & palate profile. We are now working on an experiment to combine the concrete aging program into our other series, such as Tasya’s Reserve and Deep Blue. The idea is to explore the possibility of assembling another flavour dimension to the finished wine.
All the endeavor we did come down to one single purpose – making great wine. Life’s too short to drink bad wine!
Team Grace Vineyard