Harvest 2017: New Zealand
Most areas of the country, with Hawke’s Bay being a notable exception, experienced a cool growing season in 2017, which in many places led to lower yields but with high flavour concentration and bright acidity.
Buyer Matt Smith was positive about the vintage overall, despite some difficulties with yield: “2017 proved to be a cool and challenging vintage in Marlborough with last minute rain events before the harvest. This sorted the men from the boys and those producers who picked early have made some deliciously vibrant wines with great acidity and minerality. The volume is down overall due to all the fruit selection that was needed but the resulting wines are more restrained, complex and drinkable.”
Here is a round-up of the harvest by a few of our producers:
Millton - Gisborne
Warm, dry conditions in spring and early summer led to precision and full flavour in early season varieties. However later-ripening varieties struggled due to moist, cloudy conditions towards harvest. But with careful, selective handpicking, great flavours and balance were still achieved, just with significantly lower yields. This lack of sun towards the end of the growing season led to lower sugar levels and therefore lighter alcohol of around 12.5-13% ABV, but luckily grapes still reached phenolic ripeness, giving wines with great balance and flavour. The highlights of 2017 include great Chardonnay, which gives ripe, tropical aromas and a crisp, balanced mouth feel, as well as early-season Pinot Noirs, which are revealing themselves to be delicious, poised and fragrant.
In comparison to the rest of the country, Hawke’s Bay enjoyed a warm summer, which followed a mild spring. The region experienced drought in December and January, the effects of which included some devastating scrub fires, but luckily these were followed by welcome rain in February. These warm summer temperatures followed by a period of rain have led to wines with ripe tannins, low acidity (for New Zealand) and balanced alcohol. The Chardonnay is already exhibiting a nice brightness with excellent length, and the young red wines are showing lovely charm.
The season was slower to get going in Martinborough than Hawke’s Bay, with cool, windy and wet conditions in November and December, which reduced potential yields. But temperatures were more average with the arrival of February and March. The lower yields were a saviour during this cool season though, as fruit aromas could be concentrated in a smaller number of berries. The Sauvignon Blanc has lovely flavour development and the brightness of acidity will be a hallmark of the wine this season. The Pinot Noirs show lovely energy as they complete ferment and will evolve to be beautifully elegant varietal expressions from this cool season.
In Marlborough the season felt cool, but temperatures during the growing season tracked ahead of average as summer closed. Yields were lower than expected, but this turned out to be beneficial, as it meant ripening occurred before cyclones hit the region, and all fruit could be harvested before the rains came. The young Sauvignon Blanc wines are exhibiting exciting vibrancy and are shaping up to be standouts for Craggy Range in 2017.
Prophet’s Rock - Central Otago
Central Otago’s 2017 growing season was kick-started by a warm, early spring followed by mixed, cooler weather and wind. This uneven weather over flowering lead to relatively small berries and bunches across the region, but the upside of this low yield is higher fruit concentration and quality. The best weather was reserved for autumn, which meant grapes achieved ideal ripeness whilst retaining good acidity and could be picked in great weather. The fruit is reminiscent of 2007, with its small yet flavourful bunches and berries, and the mixed summer ending in perfect harvest conditions is somewhat like 2011. The Pinot Noir is showing wonderful purity of fruit and a beautifully-balanced tannin structure.