It’s that time of year again, where the viticulturist’s job finishes and the winemakers being. Harvest time in Martinborough has been keenly awaited after what has largely been an excellent growing season.
Photo - Pinot Noir fruit on the vine at Palliser Estate.
Our most important local grape of course is Pinot Noir – an early ripening variety compared to Cabernet or Riesling. Weather conditions in Wellington have been incredible this year, but has it been the same ‘over the hill’? Strictly by temperature it has been slightly above average with February being a standout month with long warm sunny spells, but more specifically it has been dry. A slightly earlier harvest than usual was forecast, with some 20-30ml of rain falling a couple of days before most picking began.
Photo - February Temperatures for Martinborough
Photo - Dry hills surround the fruit yet to pick at The Elder
Dry conditions cause most kinds of farmers trouble, but not so for the grape growers. Lower rainfall usually means healthy grapes with little pressure on rot or mildew – both of which Pinot Noir is particularly susceptible to. Too much rain leads to burst skins, or enlarged fruit and watery wines. The parched conditions also leads to lower yields, and fuller skins on the berries – great news for us winelovers as this translates to wines of concentrated flavours and finesse.
Photo - Sorting the days Pinot at TK
Mike Hanson from ‘The Elder’ Pinot is very happy with the season. Perched above the Te Muna sub-region they have a cooler and drier microclimate compared to the terraces, this means picking a bit later as the fruit ripens. Barring a late deluge it looks like an excellent vintage, and the Pinot Gris will wait longer until it reaches its peak. From here the flame passes to head winemaker Paul Mason at Martinborough Vineyards.
Different Pinot Clones at The Elder
Allan Johnson is cautiously optimistic- a veteran of 25 vintages at Palliser Estate, until all the wines are all safely tucked away in barrel to mature the game isn’t done yet by a long stretch. But from here its looking like another excellent vintage underway in our back yard. Keep an eye out for the Reserve Pinot's from 2016 - though it will be a waiting game from here, with time in oak and further time in bottle to mature it will be a few years yet before we get our hands (and tongues) on those gems.