de la terre Vintage reports
Overall, 2016 vintage was a season of 2 halves – a markedly cool spring, right up to about Christmas times, followed by a very warm and reasonably dry Summer and Autumn.
Of particular note, once the warmer temperatures hit about mid to late January, we experienced particularly warm nights and finished up with Growing Degree Days (GDD) close to the exceptional 2013 and 2014 vintages. February was especially warm. This meant that the vintage that everyone had been predicting was going to be late due to the cooler weather early on, actually started at about the same time as previous years.
Flowering and fruit-set in Spring was variable with some blocks well down in yield on 2015. Ripening patterns for some varieties were rather odd this year, possibly due to cooler early-season temperatures reducing sugar accumulation but the warmer nights later on dropping more acid to provide riper flavours at lower Brix.
Rain events in late March and early April caused us no major issues and the settled warm weather in late April was ideal for our late-season varieties and styles – Tannat, noble Viognier and Montepulciano.
On the whole, 2016 was yet another good vintage for us.
Following on from the warm, dry conditions of 2013 and 2014, 2015 was another fantastic Hawkes Bay vintage. Almost unheard of to have 3 stunning vintages in a row!
A long, late summer provided ideal growing conditions and there was no pressure from the weather in our picking decisions.
We had purchased a larger press at the end of 2014 which made harvesting decisions easier for all involved
ie we could pick and process full blocks in one day rather than spread it over 2 days as in previous years.
We had also produced disgorging equipment for our Methode Traditionnelle which allowed us to significantly increase the amount of this wine.
Following on from the stunning 2013 vintage, 2014 was yet another fantastic year for grapes in Hawkes Bay. After an excellent flowering, the growing season was warm and dry through the main harvesting period to provide clean, ripe fruit with real flavour intensity. We managed to work around some troublesome late-season rain to pick the later ripening varieties in great condition.
In 2014 we extended our winery – effectively doubling our processing area as well as purchasing a range of new equipment. This allowed us to now process all 40 tonnes on site at de la terre, thus giving us greater hands-on control of the winemaking.
With the geese gone from the Barbera, the knowledge gleaned from the 2013 vintage, and Murray managing the vineyard we went into this vintage with a lot more confidence.
This vintage was a stunner – probably the best vintage in 30+ years of winemaking for me. Warm, dry conditions throughout the growing season gave clean, ripe fruit with real flavour intensity.
This was a watershed year for de la terre as it was the first vintage from our new Hill Country Estate vineyard – a cluster of small limestone terraces nestled among the hills of the Te Mata Special Character Zone, Havelock North, Hawkes Bay. We took over this vineyard 6 weeks before vintage started so we had little knowledge of it performed and no input into how the grapes were grown for that season.
Tony’s decisions on wine styles and fruit selection for this vintage were largely based on best guesses of how the canopy had grown and how the fruit developed in the few weeks before we started picking.
We learnt a lot about the vineyard that first year, but on the whole, his fruit selection for the different wine styles was correct – just some fine-tuning required for the next vintage.
Geese in the Barbera block caused us a few problems – this red variety ripens quite early and although the fruit was fully netted, the geese would push the nets in to get at the fruit. This caused quite a bit of damage and lowered the yield – needless to say, the geese didn’t live to see another vintage!
2013 was also the first vintage we made 2 tiers of Tannat as the newly planted Road Block produced enough fruit to allow us to do this. The Tannat vineyard is not far from Hill Country Estate and is in 2 blocks – the picturesque terraced House Block overlooking the Tukituki River where we source the fruit for the Reserve wine, and the flatter, heavier Road Block where the Estate wine comes from.
Our Vineyard Manager, Murray, who Tony had worked with at Church Road, started working for us in time to oversee the pruning, which meant we would go into 2014 vintage having had full control over how the vineyard was managed.