Saturday, 06 April 2024 15:25

Vintage 2024: Gisborne

Written by  Staff Reporters
Millton Millton

"I'm walking through the winery at the moment and the smells in there are just bloody amazing," says GisVin Chief Winemaker Mark Thompson early on 12 March.

Tasting rounds are a delight in the wake of the wet 2023 vintage, when the region's winemakers were "pulling out every trick in the winemaking book to make decent wine", he says. "This year you don't have to do anything." The quality is "awesome" but quantity is "quite significantly" down, with a conservative estimate of a 30% drop on the long-term average, Mark says. Discussions "around the table and around the harvesters" put that down to a combination of poor flowering as well as a cyclone hangover. "Having grapes on the ground with wet feet for six, nine months probably hasn't helped." But the region's wine community is resilient, he adds, flagging a couple of growers who "lost everything" in the cyclone and now have lighter crops than they'd expected. "But at the same time they are chin up and pretty happy that they're going to have an income this year."

He's positive about next season's prospects, and philosophical about this season's light yields. "As far as a country is concerned, I think we probably need a reset this year just to clear the tanks that are full of last year's wine."

Matawhero owner Kirsten Searle says fruit ripened quickly in a season of low yields, low stress and high quality. "There are going to be some really good wines coming out of the region."

Annie Millton at Millton Vineyards says oscillating temperatures, from beautiful 30C days to "cold flicks of southerly", have been an unusual situation to deal with, and another example of the weather extremes being felt by wine growers around the world. But the Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc they were picking the week of 11 March, less than a week into starting harvest is "just beautiful", she says. There's a lot less of it than she would like, which is likely a consequence of last year's deluge, followed by a mild winter, meaning a lot of buds didn't mature properly. "Then a little bit of moisture through flowering and our crops are very low."

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"Conditions are incredible," and "the quality is going to be exceptional", says Mike Saunders from North Canterbury in mid-March, as harvest kicked off for many.

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"I'm just kind of pinching myself that the weather is so good," says Pernod Ricard's New Zealand Group Winemaker Jamie Marfell, as he approaches what will likely be his first Easter off in 34 years.

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