Brian Bicknell is carfully watching the shifting landscapes of hospitality around the world, hoping to gauge the strength of Mahi's markets.
At least the pruning is complete. The outlook for the upcoming growing season looks challenging with predictions of a cool/variable spring followed by a full on El Nino summer. For the east coast regions that generally means the big dry. A nice, average sized crop is what is needed for 2016 so hopefully all the predictions won't come true. For the last eight years we seem to have been in a cycle of large followed by small followed by a normal sized vintage. We are due a normal sized one so we would like that pattern to continue. In reality we will get what mother nature allows us and we will endeavour to control the things we can control and minimise the effects of the things we can't control.
What we do need is a patch of brilliant summer weather from the 1-3rd February when Marlborough is hosting the International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration. We are looking forward to hosting our colleagues from other parts of New Zealand, along with some international winemakers and a substantial contingent of media and trade from all over the world. The program looks superb with a great mix of education, tasting and fun – it is a 'celebration' after all. This event is hugely important to Marlborough and the rest of the New Zealand wine industry as we show off the country's most commercially important grape variety. We will be tasting both the fresh vibrant and zingy 'traditional' style of Sauvignon Blanc and exploring the more complex 'alternative' styles where winemakers are pushing the boundaries and trialling different techniques. You may well be surprised at the quality and scope of the 'alternative' expressions of Sauvignon that come out of the woodwork. We will also be showing off this great region along with its bountiful seafood. From green shell mussels and Cloudy Bay clams, to crayfish and salmon, these will all be on the menu to match with our vibrant, aromatic wines. A highlight will be an expedition by train across the Awatere valley and down the beautiful Kaikoura coast to Kekerengu for a traditional Kiwi cook up by the beach featuring plenty of kai moana. I am sure the event will also feature loud shirts, dodgy dance moves and a few cleansing ales at some stage so if you haven't considered it already – why don't you come along and enjoy the celebration.
In the meantime many of the 2015 wines are now rattling down the bottling lines. Not many have reached the market yet, as the remnants of the large 2014 vintage are sold through, but there is certainly an air of excitement about the 2015's. A feature seems to be the concentration and flavour profile, with a lot of talk about palate weight across all the varieties. It appears the old adage of quality over quantity has rung true in 2015 and I am sure most winery tanks are going to be empty leading into the harvest next year.