Monday, 08 April 2024 15:25

Vintage 2024: Central Otago

Written by  Staff Reporters
Winemaker Matt Connell Winemaker Matt Connell

With a late frost last year, a hailstorm in February, and frost fighting in March, some subregions of Central Otago have been kept on their toes this season.

“They’re not all like each other, or else it would be easy and everyone would do it,” says Valli Winemaker Jen Parr on 13 March, contemplating a slightly early budburst and flowering, and the region’s early shift into autumnal hues. “Frost fighting in March is not normal. And it feels like we have lost the heat part of the season, so well and truly into autumn.” However, she anticipates “another great season”, noting clean fruit, good canopies, nice set, “and I think really good flavour development”.

Preparing for Valli’s 27th vintage, she says sparkling producers are well into harvest, and expects Pisa and Cromwell to be the first subregions to kick off the main harvest, running a little earlier than usual. For others, things may get “frenetic” after the Easter break. Jen says the unseasonal March frost seems to have been successfully fought, but she’s wary of the impact of more of the same. “The plants won’t take too many cold shocks before they decide it’s time to be like bears.”

Winemaker Matt Connell says there have been challenges in the season, “but there always are”. Statistically, the temperatures are not as warm as the past few seasons, “but I am looking at what I’m tasting and think we’re tracking about the same”. And he’s optimistic about the vintage. “There are great flavours there and I am really encouraged by how the vineyards are looking. I am just keen to get going.”

He too is seeing an early onset of autumn, and expects to pick around a week earlier than last year, with the earlier ripening potentially influenced by winds throughout the season, “which has provided a bit more stress”.

Yields look good, depending on location, with some pockets that were frosted last year less abundant. “My message for people I am making wine for is obviously quality over quantity,” Matt says. “We all know there’s a bit of wine floating around, so it has to be good. And the whole industry needs to focus on that really.”


Grape growing in Waitaki is a challenging business, says Valli Winemaker Jen Parr. “But occasionally we get a slightly easier ride. And we’ll take it when we’re given it.” The tiny wine region flowered early, and harvest may follow suit. “Everyone over east is quite excited. It should hopefully be a bit of an easier year, with excellent results.”

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