After a tiny 2021 harvest and a short-staffed 2022, the best word to describe 2023’s growing season feels like… “rollercoaster”?!

Looking back at conditions through 2022-23, regular rainfall meant growers had to be alert and agile to protect their vines and avoid disease. Wet weather prior to Christmas kicked off Downy Mildew infections in some blocks to an extent not seen in Marlborough in the last 20 years, and by February it was possible to see early signs of Botrytis along with a few extra worry lines on the faces of our growers! A month or so prior to harvest many in Marlborough were bracing themselves for a tricky harvest.

And yet…

Then the rollercoaster changed course.

As so often happens in Marlborough, Autumn weather saved the day. Forecast rains did not arrive and Marlborough dodged the tropical storms that devasted NZ’s North Island. Loose bunches meant that the fruit stayed dry and clean, and the early season concerns over disease did not eventuate. Healthy canopies meant the vines were in good shape to ripen their grapes and develop delicious flavours in a harvest that was somewhat slower and later than usual.

Jules tasting Sauvignon grapes for the 2023 vintage in Marlborough
A sunny Marlborough vineyard shortly before the 2023 vintage.
Jules Taylor, Winemaker, in one of her Marlborough vineyards.

Harvest began as usual with Pinot Gris, which was hand-picked from Will Griggs’ Meadowbank Vineyard. Early on 17th March, only a day later than in 2022, an enthusiastic harvesting crew quickly had the first of the clone 52B Pinot Gris grapes whipped off the vines and despatched to the winery. Over the next two weeks we chipped away at harvesting smaller parcels of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

While there was plenty to keep us busy getting the early varieties harvested, it doesn’t really feel like harvest proper until the first Sauvignon Blanc is picked. After much patience, this happened on 2nd April, when the newer 905 and 376 clones of Sauvignon Blanc were harvested from Alton Downs in the Awatere. This was a full ten days later than last year and illustrates the unhurried progression of the 2023 harvest. Harvest then ramped up, with all the remaining fruit being picked over the following two weeks, finishing on 15th April with Grüner Veltliner from the Wairau Valley Floor.

Despite the apprehension earlier in the season, the condition of the grapes arriving at the winery was truly fantastic. The slow ripening period evolved concentrated flavours which were ripe, layered and balanced by juicy acidity. Harvest went very smoothly, and Jules was able to breathe a sigh of relief, and then smile with excitement as she tasted the wines in tank and barrel.

Chardonnay and Pinot Gris are looking particularly delicious this year, and while it’s still early days for the Pinot Noir which is quietly maturing in barrel, the early signs are that this will be another concentrated year for that variety.

But the standout from 2023 is Sauvignon Blanc.

“It’s some of the best Sauvignon Blanc I’ve seen in years” says Jules. “The slow ripening period and fantastic concentration at harvest means that the wines are generous, voluptuous… delicious. There just seem to be more layers of flavour in the glass than usual.”

We can’t wait to share a glass or two with you soon!