Spring of 2011 provided ideal conditions for both flowering and fruit set. Early warm winds were particularly strong this season. The bunch numbers in the vineyard were average across the board with a more consistent berry size which can be beneficial for even ripening. By the end of January the nets were on and we started to play the waiting game.
The La Nina weather pattern that affected most of the country during February/March, significantly reduced sunshine hours. This lack of sunshine and lower than normal daily temperatures resulted in a slower ripening process - by the end of February this probably put us 10-14 days behind the same stage of the previous vintage. The fruit however, was in good condition and was holding up well as the inclement weather started. These rainfalls continued into March. By harvest we had unseasonably high rainfall and humidity, not experienced since 2001. Great for the water tanks but this certainly tested our viticultural practices!
Despite the challenges, the general consensus across the Gisborne district was that most growers were pleasantly surprised at the quality and flavour of the harvest. It seemed that the flavours came early which proved to be a real blessing.
At Matawhero we were also very happy with the harvest. All of the Chardonnays look good - including the two new Church House clones. Our new clone Pinot Gris is the best we have seen yet. This is the third crop from these vines and it seems the flavours are getting better with each vintage!
Each season we have put down an extra cane in the vineyards to help increase the yields. With four canes this season, it is exciting to see the quality is maintained with the extra volume. We are also experimenting with a new style, barrel fermented, Sauvignon Blanc. So watch out for its release towards the end of the year. We did look at adding a Chenin Blanc to the Matawhero stable this year but you will have to wait until 2013 for this little gem!
Pruning in the vineyard will begin at the beginning of June and we will then be into another season and hopefully some lovely sunny Gisborne Winter days.