Sunday, 07 April 2024 14:25

Vintage 2024: Marlborough

Written by  Staff Reporters
Jules Taylor starts her harvest at Meadowbank vineyard in Marlborough. Photo Credit: Lisa Duncan Jules Taylor starts her harvest at Meadowbank vineyard in Marlborough. Photo Credit: Lisa Duncan

"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.

In mid-March, with the "brilliant" Marlborough handpick for sparkling wines all done, and the first Sauvignon Blanc crop in at 20.5 brix "on day one", he predicts it will all be over before April. "We've never finished this early."

The sparkling wine harvest started seven days earlier than expected in Marlborough, thanks in large part to low crop levels and "amazing weather", adding to a trend towards earlier harvests. The wine quality is going to be "outstanding", thanks to those light yields, with drops of between 20% and 40%, depending on the vineyard and subregion, Jamie says. Cool spring weather affected all New Zealand's wine areas, apart from Central Otago, "and we're seeing crops down across all those regions," he says, noting that Hawke's Bay is further down than Marlborough.

The low crops, paired with great weather, shrunk the interval between flowering and harvest, challenging spray diary management. “It’s made everyone aware of the short period between flowering and flowering sprays until bunch closure sprays and then harvest.” But the harvest itself has been one of the easiest he’s experienced, thanks to relentlessly fine weather that saw the region become tinder dry. The low crops and high quality will see the company directing a good proportion of its fruit to higher tier wines, to maintain roll dates in those brackets. Slowing orders for New Zealand wine are likely to result in a later than typical release for some wines, with 2023 wines in market longer, helping cover the shortfall of 2024’s vintage. “Once we roll from 23s to 24s… we’ll roll into a short vintage,” Jamie says. “But it’ll be stunning.”

Jules Taylor Wines kicked off their Pinot Gris harvest at Meadowbank on Friday 8 March. “The fruit looked amazing”, says Jules. “Perfectly clean and certainly packed with great flavour and nice acidity.

Viticulturist Claudia Small is “extremely positive” about the season. “It has “the potential to be a really nice vintage”, she says in mid-March. The Small & Small Pinot Noir harvest started early and yields were down, with small bunches and lower berry numbers, but great quality, she says. Expectations are for things to get “very busy, very fast” when Sauvignon Blanc comes on, “but the geographical spread of our fruit means I am feeling pretty relaxed”. She says the very dry season has exposed issues with their irrigation, with leaks “extremely obvious” against the tinder dry landscape. Marlborough’s hot and dry season was exacerbated by a windy summer, says Fruition Horticulture consultant Jim Mercer, calling it one of the driest years he has seen in the region.

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Vintage 2024: Central Otago

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Vintage 2024: On the High Wire

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Vintage 2024: North Canterbury

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The 2024 vintage could be one of Wairarapa's greatest yet, says Foley Wines winemaker John Kavanagh, who heads the winery team at Te Kairanga.

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