When winemakers review their most recent vintage, they tend to focus on the conditions at harvest.
While this is very important, it is not the only crucial time in the viticuture calendar. Arguably, the most critical is the flowering period when the weather actually determines what, if any, sort of crop you will receive.
Thus it was in late 2021 when I started to worry - our flowering started in cool wet, windy weather. Not ideal conditions for the delicate little grape flowers. Our vine flora is predominantly pollinated by wind, so you’re looking for warm, dry breezes.
Enter 2022, and the bunches were ‘incomplete’ in formation and small in size. Cool and moist conditions meant the pollination hadn’t happen in full. We were down by 30%, which has an effect through the growing season, not just on the final yield.
As a result, the grapes’ behaviour patterns change. You know this already, but to make good wine the vines need a healthy amount of stress. The equivalent to ‘the pressure’s on’ when you need to get something done, but you’re really enjoying doing it.
The grapes get lazy. Less energy is needed to ripen less grapes, so they take their time and are often late. Furthermore, the smaller yield - something we talk about as leading to flavour intensity - in this case simply means less wine.
Even when you crop at under 2 tonnes per acre it seems to make little difference. This year we cropped at about 800 kgs per acre. Well down on commercial yields!
Once the fruit is set, the only thing you can do is shepherd it through to ripeness in the best possible way. In that, we were blessed this year and the weather was benign throughout their 105 days of growing on the vine.
When we picked a few weeks ago, we had a magnificent run of warm dry days with just enough rain in between to keep the vines from feeling any water stress. As we don't irrigate at all, we are totally reliant on what the skies give us to keep the vines in health.
The upshot of all this was a low-yielding but very fine vintage making some delicious wines. Let's see how they travel over the next 15 months in barrel.
(c) Griit Studio