Saturday, 08 April 2023 15:25

Vintage 2023: Central Otago & Waitaki

Written by 
Grant Taylor Grant Taylor

At the other extreme of the nation's weather stats, Central Otago had low rainfall from December through February, with 44.4mm of rain (37% of the LTA) in the 82 days from 1 December to 20 February.

However, the three days from 21 to 23 February recorded 40.2mm, going some way to alleviate the long dry spell, Rob says.

Valli Winemaker and Owner Grant Taylor says they've experience the driest growing season in many years, and one of the warmest in a while, with only 2018 bringing higher temperatures. "The usual suspects that reduce crop levels - frost and flowering - basically didn't show up," Grant says. "Apart from frost tickling a little early Chardonnay and slightly erratic weather during certain Pinot clones flowering in Bendigo, it has been a dream season." Uniformity of ripeness and cropping levels across individual vineyards is as good as he has seen.

The dry summer did cause some stress on young vines but the late February rain refreshed the outlook. Speaking on 10 March, with harvest of sparkling base well underway, Grant says reports are of "perfectly clean fruit" and yields about 10% higher than estimated. "I expect/hope this will continue through the still wine harvest."

Meanwhile, the region has an excess of labour, with many contractors helping out their North Island peers by taking on unneeded seasonal workers. They now have more than they need, "so I think once harvest is in full swing, we should be very well positioned", Grant says.

Looking to North Otago, Grant says Waitaki Valley started the season well and early, with flowering some time ahead of the Central blocks. "But since then there has been rain more weeks than not so it has gone back to being its usual self and a couple of weeks behind Central." Poor weather during flowering affected yields in the valley, and he is anticipating two to three tonnes per hectare. "The fruit though is looking very clean and, not picking until late April/May, there is all the time needed to achieve desired ripeness," he adds. "So it's fair to say the region is having a 'normal' vintge."

Grant's pick of the subregions for vintage 2023 is, "without question", Gibbston, with flowering coinciding with a period of settled weather, resulting in very uniform bunch and berry size. "And being the coolest Central Otago subregion it's retaining its acidity better."

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