2020: an all but normal vintage
2020 Vintage Report: Cooler weather during bud initiation in the spring of 2019 meant that we had lower bunch numbers going into our flowering period in November/December, which of course is a crucial window that sets the stage for the upcoming vintage. However, the actual flowering weather was the best we have ever seen in that period for Marlborough. That produced unprecedented berry numbers per bunch and resulted in serious bunch crowding.
Fortunately, the driest summer on record then suppressed the berry growth to a degree and there were no disease events of consequence. As a result the serious risk posed by crowded and therefore tight bunches didn’t amount to anything. It was a dream vintage in that the disease levels were negligible. Berry size ended up being small to moderate as a result of the dry conditions during berry sizing and this has given the reds amazing colour and substantial structure. In some areas it was important to reduce the crop levels because of much larger bunch weights due to the massive berry numbers, rather than berry size.
Our summer was on the warmer side of normal, but late summer and early autumn saw the arrival of the usual cooler nights that are so important to our aromatic qualities and retention of acidity. 2020 was one of the easiest and least stressful of all the harvests we’ve seen in Marlborough…..if it wasn’t for the Covid-19 crisis!
The introduction of very strict protocols and a nationwide lockdown just as we started harvest in Marlborough in late March made for a very challenging and inefficient harvest. There was great uncertainty initially about the ability of the NZ wine industry to continue with its harvest, and once clarity was given that we were indeed an essential business, there resulted further stress in the omnipotent threat of shut-down should any non-compliance of the strict protocols be observed.
Regrettably there was a local anti-industry campaign and some aggressive and malicious social media activity with the goal to have the industry shut down. It was under this metaphorical cloud rather than any capable of rain, that the industry worked. Wineries moved incredibly fast to adhere to the rapidly assembled and disseminated protocols. Random audits and inspections took place and the industry was given praise for the way that the procedures had been adopted and compliance standards adhered to. It was only as we harvested the last parcels of grapes that people started to relax and tellingly, no cases of Covid-19 were recorded within the industry throughout the whole of the harvest period.
2020 will be remembered for many reasons. We are confident that fine wines produced in Marlborough will be one of the more positive of them!