Jules gives us the low-down on how the 2022 vintage is shaping up.

The New Year is when Marlborough grapegrowers’ thoughts start to focus on the coming vintage. Bunches of grapes are growing nicely and we have passed the major hazards of frost season and poor weather during flowering or fruit set.

 After 2021’s mini vintage, what does 2022 have in store? Jules has been out and about in the vineyards to check on progress.

Q/ 2021 was reported as a very small vintage for New Zealand wines in general. How has this impacted you?

 We needed to bottle the 2021 wines early and this, combined with the reduced tonnage (Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay especially) means that we will run out of some wines earlier than usual. Sauvignon Blanc for us should be ok but we are hoping for an earlyish vintage in 2022 to get everything blended and bottled and out to market with no break in supply.

Q/ And how has the 2022 season shaped up so far?

 Spring was VERY damp which further topped up soil moisture after an above average winter rainfall. Budburst was earlier than average, and the vines’ potential for the 2022 season was there for us all to see! Flowering across all varieties has been good and I would say we are in for a more ‘normal’ crop load than last year…. maybe even a little above average. We have had some great heat in January and the canopies are looking healthy and well poised to carry the fruit through to ripening. But who knows what Mother Nature will bring over the following three months!!?? Growing degree days to the end of December for Blenheim were 697 compared with a long-term average (over last 24 years) of 603 so at this point everything is looking on track for the coming harvest!

Q/ How is Covid affecting you at the moment?

 We are lucky in New Zealand to have been less severely affected than other parts of the world. That being said, we are now under restrictions as Omicron starts to advance into our communities. We are all very nervous about how this and other new variants will affect us. Up until now, the main impacts we have felt have been in not being able to visit our friends and customers overseas ☹ and in having limited workers for vineyard and winery work. Being a small country, we rely on people coming to NZ from overseas to help us with a lot of these tasks and obviously with all the restrictions on travel, a lot of those visitors have dried up.

Q/ At what point do you really start making decisions about picking dates and volumes?

 We really have to make decisions on the spot when it comes to picking. I spend a lot of time prior to harvest walking the rows and tasting the berries to determine the ‘right’ time to pick. It is different every year depending on the crop load, the health of the vines, and the weather conditions. Right now, my gut feeling is that we will be well into picking Pinot Noir by mid-March, and that everything will follow in quite a steady stream after that. With crop levels the way they are, I suspect vintage will be more ‘normal’ in terms of timing than last year.

Q/ When can we expect to see the 2022 wines hit the market?

 It all depends on the weather between now and harvest! I imagine the first of our Sauvignon Blanc will be heading to bottling in late May… you should start to see it in market by June/July depending on where you are.