2018 New Zealand vintage report
2018 was a challenging vintage in some parts of the country thanks to three cyclones, hotter than normal ripening conditions in the early part of vintage and unusually warm nights during much of the ripening period.John Forrest of Forrest Estate believes that producers who moved quickly will have achieved a reasonable result in Marlborough.
Rainfall from January to March was only slightly higher than the long-term average according to Met Service figures so it was pretty much business as usual for most of the producers.
Paul Tietjen of TW Wines said that their crop was well down, especially in chardonnay and merlot, thanks to a cold snap in November. Powdery mildew continues to be a problem and rain was more of a problem with early-ripening varieties.
“We had slightly lower sugars than usual and quantity was down but overall the fruit looked pretty clean.”
There was, however, a collective sigh of relief when all of the region’s grapes were safely tucked up in tank and barrel.
Wellington Wine Country (Wairarapa & Martinborough)
Rainfall was only just above average during the three months to late March and most of the grapes had been harvested before heavy rain in April, according to Larry McKenna of Escarpment Wines. A two-week fine spell provided a convenient and appropriate window for nervous grape growers. Producers who held their nerve and picked late would generally have fared better than those who panicked and picked early. McKenna picked his last grapes on Friday 13th April.
Warm nights produced lower than normal acidity and sugar levels.
Less rain in Jan-March than in 2017 but a little above the long-term average. Tony Bish of Tony Bish Wines said,
“Most producers were pretty happy with the vintage and feel we got off pretty lightly compared to some other regions. It’s certainly not a classic vintage. We had a big dump of rain in March after reasonably dry conditions. That was followed by a warm, dry period for a few weeks which saved the day. Quantity for looks pretty good – chardonnay was bang-on target, although merlot was a touch light.”
On the face of it, Nelson had a very wet vintage with 566mls of rain in the three months to March, compared with an average of 157, according to Met Service.
Tim Finn from Neudorf Wines responded by saying that rainfall figures can be deceptive. If the rain is short and heavy it can run off with less damage to the grapes than a long period of drizzle. Nelson had a drought in the early part of the new year and growers rejoiced when they had the first bought of rainfall in January. There was less rejoicing when heavy rain fell in February and March.
Finn says that grape sugars and acidity levels are down but flavours are ripe. The wines generally taste good and are in balance, he believes. Quantity is down at Neudorf by 25% despite experiencing an excellent fruit set. Chardonnay was the regional winner says Finn, although pinot noir also fared well.
According to Met Service figures Marlborough experienced 364 mm of rain during the three month ripening period until the end of March. That compares with a long-term average of 112 mm for the same period.
John Forrest of Forrest Estate believes that producers who moved quickly will have achieved a reasonable result. Forrest moved quickly, finishing his harvest at an early 30th March which allowed him to avoid heavy rain in April.
Slip-skin, botrytis and powdery mildew caused problems that not even careful selection could save in some cases. Surprisingly acidity levels didn’t drop as expected although grape sugars were down, according to Forrest. The vintage is best described as “unusual” says Forrest.
2018 was a hot vintage. It was “off the chart” according to Misha’s winemaker, Olly Masters. Growing degree days for a shorter than usual period totalled 1322 compared to just 960 the previous year. Warm nights produced low acids. Lower than average bunch weights also resulted in a shortfall in volume, at least at Misha’s.
It was a “fast and furious” vintage according to Misha’s viticulturist, Kelley Hamilton. All of Misha’s grapes, apart from some late-harvest gewürztraminer, were harvested one month earlier than usual.
There was higher than normal bird and disease pressure, although producers that I spoke to seem reasonably bullish about quality.