After an iffy 2008 vintage, 2009 looks set to be a cracker thanks to dry conditions in the run up to harvest. Initial murmurings from wineries on both the North and South Island suggest we should be getting excited about the quality produced. Of the country’s internationally acclaimed region Marlborough Paul Bourgeois of Spy Valley says: ‘Lovely flavours are in evidence with all the aromatic wines, great acids and fine concentrated structures for Pinot Noir, and the promise of some rich and interesting late harvest wines. The range of flavours in the Sauvignon Blanc so far looks fantastic.’
Things also look promising across the Cook Strait. Craggy Range’s Steve Smith MW claims Martinborough was ‘superb’ and while the harvest in Hawkes Bay’s harvest came late, producer Mills Reef reports: ‘Our Bordeaux varieties are looking very, very good, with stunning colour, concentrated flavours and ripe tannins – the best that we could ask for!’
Good rains over the New Zealand winter gave the soil plenty of water for the coming summer months. February was unseasonably cool throughout the country including Marlborough and delayed harvest slightly compared to 2008. Winegrowers of Ara reports harvest was one to two weeks later than usual. However, a relatively warm and rain-free March and April assisted steady ripening, with cool nights producing good aromatics and structure.
The 2009 New Zealand grape harvest matched the previous year’s bumper crop of 285,000 tonnes. Vineyard plantings increased by a massive 39% in 2008, and a further 10% more vines came on stream in 2009, so expect these record levels to be maintained or broken in future years.
New Zealand Wine Growers reported the majority of wineries either held grape intake at last year’s level or significantly reduced it following problems last year including a lack of tank space for increased volume of fruit. The figures show around two-thirds of wineries had a vintage either of the same size or smaller than 2008, in direct comparison to last year when 80% of wineries increased production.