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Gisborne vintage report

FULL bodied, fresh, aromatic, well balanced, deeply coloured and strongly scented . . . . it’s beginning to sound a lot like a cracker of a vintage for the wider Gisborne region.

The 2006 vintage will go down as perhaps the shortest on record for the region with some harvests in a month ahead of the norm.

Some who took a gamble paid the price for leaving fruit on the vine for too long and were hit hard by the rain. Others went for the conservative approach and while brix were down slightly, they managed a reasonable harvest.

So while figures are up and down, quality it seems is undeniably excellent.

Pernod Ricard was one who had all its grapes in by late April – for the 2005 vintage it was late May before the last of the fruit was off the vines.

Pernod Ricard regional vineyards manager Warwick Bruce says the early harvest can be attributed to the lighter fruit set and higher day and night temperatures (generally 1–2 degrees centigrade) during January, February and the early part of March.

Yields were lower with Pernod Ricard’s down 12–14 percent on estimates and about 20 percent on the 2005 vintage.

James Millton estimates the two spring frosts that hit the district reduced crops on the slopes and side valleys of Gisborne by up to 68 percent. The news was all good at Vinoptima Estate. Picking started late March, but the ensuring rain caused the pH to rise and brix to drop.

“However, flavour remained intense. We stopped picking and left the remaining fruit for another fortnight, catching the excellent weather that followed,” says Nick Nobilo.

The end result was good dry botrytis in some bunches boosting brix levels to above 30. He even goes as far to predict the 2006 vintage would be the most intense flavoured since Vinoptima Estate produced its first drop in 2003.

Those sentiments are reiterated by Doug Bell who says it was their best quality vintage ever.

“Crop levels were moderate, the vines were in excellent health with a kind growing season and early maturity. It has produced fruit to die for.”

Now the liquid gold was in the hands of the winemakers to carry through the quality and top flavour profiles to the finished product.

At Kirkpatrick Estate Wines (KEW) wine maker Anita Ewart-Croy says the flavours and cleanliness of the fruit was fantastic.

GisVin manager Rob Godwin was also most impressed with the quality of fruit coming through.

“We had some of the best quality fruit ever seen through the winery for the larger part of the vintage.”

Overall throughput was down 3.7 percent on 2005, with the bulk varieties about 10 percent over forecast and the Chardonnay down a little.

“Juice yields were the highest we have seen throughout the vintage, with only a slight brix dilution from the rain in the final week of March.”

Waimata Vineyards winemaker James Hillard is confident the good management by some of the “country’s finest viticulturists in the premium grape growing district” will be able to overcome the climatic challenges thrown at them during the 2006 vintage.

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WID 2017