White grapes in blue picking bin in sunny Marlborough vineyard

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VINTAGE 2021 - PETITE BUT PERFECTLY FORMED

A small but delicious harvest comes to a close...

The 2021 vintage got off to a cracking start with a warm September causing bud burst around one week earlier than normal for most varieties. This meant Sauvignon Blanc was in full bud by the end of September when, in the early hours of Wednesday, 30th September, the temperature fell well below zero for an extended period. This caused some obvious frost burning of shoots in some vineyards and was the first of the climatic events that severely reduced the number of grapes harvested in Marlborough in 2021.

Continued warm temperatures through October and into early November meant that flowering was also well ahead of normal. Early varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris) first showed signs of flowering in the second week of November and Sauvignon Blanc began around a week later. During this critical flowering period there were several cool, overcast, and wet days, rather than the dry, warm temperatures and light wind that the grapes need for successful fertilisation and berry development. These weather conditions also stretched out the flowering period and meant that developing bunches had fewer and smaller berries than usual.

From Christmas onwards we experienced a traditional Marlborough summer with long periods of dry, sunny weather causing lawns and the nearby Wither Hills to turn slowly from spring green to gold and finally to an almost baked brown colour. This was excellent weather for the grapes to develop and race towards harvest. The prolonged period with very little rainfall also limited any berry expansion, so at harvest we had very clean small berries but also some of the lowest harvest bunch weights since 2007.

Harvest began on the 4th of March with both machine and hand harvesting kicking off. This was more than a week earlier than normal and one of the earliest harvests in Marlborough. Harvest itself was relatively simple and much less stressful than the 2020 Covid-restricted harvest. The last fruit picked this year was the Gruner Veltliner, it was delivered into the winery hilariously on April Fool’s day.

Without exception, all vineyards were disease-free and had great fruit concentration. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris look particularly flavoursome at this early stage. We just wish there were more to go round!

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