Steve Harrop, author of The Three Harrops - an update, sent this report last week on the 2010 vintage in the fledging wine region of Waitaki in New Zealand. Interesting to follow the far-from-steady progress of such a marginal spot.
The 2010 vintage has been a mysterious and unpredictable one with the most nervous budburst and kick off we have ever seen in the Waitaki. The buds burst across most sites as normal in October but very low temperatures and frosts across the various vineyards saw marginal damage in the sloping sites and little damage in those sites with fans or water protection.
Exposed vineyards had to resort to expensive helicopters and those without the facilities were quite badly burned. This frost period was followed by an unseasonably cool October and November, which resulted in very slow growth in both established and newly planted vines.
Vineyards that had reduced shoot numbers or pruned to single or shorter canes saw the vines moving a little better but on the whole growers were extremely nervous about the canopies going into December flowering. To add insult to injury, the local pest we call the bronze beetle flew in biblical proportions, giving the fragile new shoots another setback. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!
Flowering started in the second week of December but stalled due to the cool conditions. It was clear and dry, but there were some very cold snaps that left the vines confused about flowering and as a result some vineyards saw patchy and uneven fruit set. The exception this year seems to be the Hakateramea vineyard site, where the elevation and protection from the cooler conditions saw an excellent even set across the clones and varieties in the 12-hectare Pasquale vineyard.
Post flowering saw cool, dry conditions continue through until mid January. The vines finally saw some real Waitaki Valley heat at the end of January, on through February, and into March. The canopies had a fantastic recovery, making up for the growth lost in the early season. Near-perfect growing conditions - warm dry days and cooler but mild nights - have continued up until the present. We are still playing catch up as far as growing degree days go, but growers are optimistic.
It will be touch and go whether a lot of the cooler sites get the fruit over the line, and ripeness will be the defining character in the Waitaki 2010 wines - especially the Pinots. The Hakateramea wines will fly a positive flag as long as they avoid late-season pre-harvest frosts.
All in all the season is still open to the risk of frost but the late-growing canopies are still very much functional under the nets - another four weeks of this Indian summer we are enjoying at the moment and you might see a few smiles on growers' faces. For the moment it's still as chancy as a day at the races!
One real positive was the Royal Easter Show results: the first bag of medals for the region and the region's first winery getting a gold - see press release below.
WAITAKI VALLEY STRIKES GOLD
In a series of firsts two Pinot Noir wines from the new wine region of the Waitaki Valley have scored gold and silver medals in the Royal Easter Show. The 2008 Pasquale Pinot Noir from the Waitaki Valley was awarded gold, while its counterpart just over the river the 2008 Pasquale Hakataramea Pinot Noir took a silver medal. Both Pasquale wines are produced by Kurow Estate which opened the valleys first winery in Kurow just six months ago.
"This award represents a significant step for our region and particularly for our Kurow Winery. It will be greatly celebrated" says owner Antonio Pasquale. "The bar was always set very high for these wines, we control all facets from the grape to the glass and this is proof that expertise and care can produce excellence. Our belief in the unique soils and terroir of our Kurow Estates sites and the Hakateramea Valley vineyard is now being recognised. A first for the Pasquale Label and the Kurow Winery but I am confident that it will be the first of many for these very special wines"
It is appropriate that the first gold medal winning Pinot was made for Pasquale by a Kurow born winemaker, Grant Taylor - "I am as delighted by this award as any I've received" said Grant, "The Waitaki wines are about finesse with length of flavor rather than power, a style which can often be overshadowed in competitions by the more powerful ripe fruited wines. The fact that a Pinot Noir of delicacy with an ethereal nature has received gold medal is a reflection of the quality, sophistication and attention to detail of wine judging in NZ."
Waitaki aromatic whites were also recognised with the 2009 Kurow Village Cricklewood Pinot Gris and 2009 Kurow Village Pinot Gris taking bronze medals at the show.
"The Pasquale and Kurow Village wines are made entirely from estate grapes, and it is the total control on-site, from the vine to the state-of the-art bottling plant, that preserves the integrity and quality of the wine" says Kurow Estate winemaker Andy Nicole." The wines reflect what we can achieve with the Waitaki and Hakateramea fruit and I have no doubt that the 2009 Pasquale Pinots will continue to set the standard by which the valley will be judged."
The winery also produces a dry Pasquale Riesling and a dry Arneis, and a rich, dry white aromatic blend called Alma Mater. Kurow Village Riesling, Pinot Noir and two rosés are also made for earlier drinking. Further Italian varieties are being planted, says Antonio Pasquale, and the winery output is progressively being expanded to some 14,000 cases per year over the next three years. The winery is engaged in the sustainability programme of New Zealand Winegrowers and intends eventually to attain organic status. The company has pioneered authentication of production for each bottle through the use of the New Zealand-developed Oritain Global certification.
All wines are available from the Kurow Winery cellar door on SH83 in the Waitaki Valley between Duntroon and Kurow open 7 days 11am - 5pm , the Pasquale range can be found in just a few of the country's leading wine merchants and finest restaurants.