Hawke's Bay Vintage 2018
A friendly, frost-free Spring to the 2017/2018 growing season was a harbinger of good things to come. A warm and relatively dry, early summer lead to a very hot January and February with memories and comparisons harking back to the extremely warm 2009 and 2014 vintages. It is interesting to note that the indicators of a warm season (mean air temperatures) both maximum and minimum, were higher in 2018 than both other seasons. Hawke’s Bay’s Grower Degree Days (GDD) were at record level highs, 16% over the long-term average.
In early March Hawke’s Bay received one significant rain event (100+mm of rain) that caused much-publicised local flooding in the Esk Valley. Disappointingly the associated flooding of river deltas and vineyards in the area were perceived as a calling card of the vintage.
Rain events are far from unusual in the Hawkes Bay and with excellent forecasting now available, most growers and winemakers know how to react before, during and after such an event. Much of the region’s early Chardonnay was picked before the rain and in absolute mint condition. The next 3 weeks weather proved to be the largest challenge of the vintage; rainfall was moderate to low, however, the humidity over this period was high.
With such a warm, early season, early ripening sites and varieties came under a massive amount of pressure. As is often the case in these early seasons, the key is to be able to hold off from harvesting the later ripening varieties, aiming to get through to early April when both the temperatures and humidity significantly drops. This was the case in 2018, the settled weather from early April resulted in some exceptional red wines, particularly the Cabernet family and Syrah.
Warren Gibson, Chief Winemaker from Trinity Hill said “I can honestly say I have not seen a collection of young red wines as strong as in 2018. Syrah is spicy, powerful and hugely aromatic through all tiers. The Cabernet family is as strong as any vintage I can recall going back to 2009. Chardonnay is as good as ever and continues to be the go-to white variety for Hawke’s Bay. Every producer will have their own individual take on 2018. Mine is incredibly strong”.
In short, lovers of Hawke’s Bay wines can relax in the knowledge that many great wines will be produced from the 2018 vintage.
For more information contact:
Michael Henley, Chairman, Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers
Tel: 021 664 239
*The above report was compiled with data supplied by Warren Gibson and Tony Bish
Hawke's Bay Vintage 2017
Climate Overview: A remarkable season. A moderate spring with low frost risk and generally good flowering leading to an extremely dry and warm summer, recording above average temperatures in January and February before rainy weather came late Feb followed by humid conditions with heavy rainfall from March to May.
Rainfall: Well below average during the growing phase. Well above average in autumn.
Grower Degree Days: 1416 (well above average)
Vintage strengths: Early and late varieties are the highlights. Notably, Chardonnay (early) and Cabernet Sauvignon (late).
Reflections: 2017 has been a season like no other. Things started calmly with a moderate spring, very low frost risk and then generally good flowering. After this followed a beautiful, classic Hawke’s Bay Summer meaning the vineyards and surrounding landscapes became extremely dry. From early October to mid-February only 130 mm of rain fell in the Gimblett Gravels sub-region creating very dry conditions. Mid-February we received approximately 150 mm (6 inches of rain) all over a matter of days. This rain was much needed in the region with the first half realistically just settling the dust. Periods of damp, humid weather between the 7th and 30th March put many vineyards in the region under huge disease pressure. The well forecasted Cyclone Debbie was due to hit the East Coast on the 3rd of April. Cyclone Cook was then forecast for the 12th of April.
Overview: As an industry we certainly can’t say 2017 was the easiest of seasons due to the inclement late summer and autumn weather however we can say with confidence that we will have some remarkable wine in the cellar from 2017. Trinity Hill Chief Winemaker Warren Gibson said “this vintage has been challenging with the random rain events that occurred at harvest however the very hot start and middle of the season meant most of the fruit is actually very good. It is a low sugar year but the flavours are definitely there.”
The early varieties are fantastic with Chardonnay an impressive stand-out. At the other end of the vintage, the late ripening varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc are equally impressive. The early varieties missed all of the significant rain and the late varieties were able to hold through the difficult weather to have excellent ripe flavours and great colours across the board.
Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Chairman Michael Henley said wet weather during the harvest period was a regular event in Hawke’s Bay and our winemakers and growers are prepared for this and make decisions based around many years of experience. “As the Hawkes Bay industry matures we are able to cope better with whatever the conditions at the time of harvest, and can still produce great wine despite difficult conditions” said Henley
For Hawke’s Bay, in comparison, 2017 is a much stronger vintage than 2011 and 2012 and there is no doubt Hawke’s Bay wineries will be delivering outstanding, fine wines to rival the golden vintages of 2013-2016.
Hawke's Bay Vintage 2016
Climate Overview: A very late beginning to the season was followed by a very warm summer and early autumn period. Unusually consistent warm January and February temperatures led to record Grower Degree Days in that period.
Rainfall: Average to below average during the ripening phase. Warm average night-time temperatures.
Grower Degree Days: 1420
Vintage strengths: Another excellent all-round vintage.
Reflections: A very cool, late spring meant a later than average season. In fact, up until mid-January we were record late.
Between the early January period until the first day of harvest, the 16th March, we experienced unusually consistent warm days. In fact, in that approximate 9 week period, (63 days), a total of 50 days of that time the maximum daytime temperature were 25 degrees celsius or over. That is very rare for Hawkes Bay. 2016 ended up having Grower Degree Days rivalling the very warm 2014 and 2009 harvest.
Early on flowering was solid, frosts were not prevalent or at least well mitigated. The season, however, seemed unusually slow and late. Generally we need to get through the last half of March to make for a great season in Hawkes Bay. This time seems to be consistently the most unsettled period each year. If the season lingers on to late April, generally the wines are very strong. The warm days were also combined with warm night-time temperatures and high humidity, particularly around the 2nd half of March. It was definitely a season to be close and vigilant to your vineyards.
The 2016 wines are delicious. The Chardonnays are as good as anything back to 2010. The early ripening varieties, Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo are as good as we have ever made. The Gimblett reds are juicy and succulent. Dark fruited with plenty of colour. The wines have a delicious immediate drinkability. They are structured but soft and rich and with plenty of body.
Hawke's Bay Vintage 2015
Climate Overview: A typical spring with moderate frost risk and a good fruit-set in the Gimblett Gravels. Average to poor fruit-set in the cooler, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir sites. A dry summer with an unsettled autumn.
Rainfall: Dry January/February (50 mm total). March and April were somewhat unsettled with 3 events of around 50mm during this harvest period. All three of these events were followed by very cool, dry weather and this minimised any negative effects of the rain.
Grower Degree Days: 1400 (very similar to 2013).
Vintage strengths: Excellent all-round vintage with no stand out weaknesses. Smaller yields in the cooler sites led to excellent quality with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Quality was consistently strong across all varieties in the Gimblett Gravels.
2015 was a very different vintage to previous years in Hawkes Bay. A dry early summer followed by typically good temperatures through to the New Year and then a very dry January and February with heat summation running very similar to the classic 2013 season.
Harvest began with Chardonnay on the 10th March. Most of our Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc vineyards were then harvested in the week following. Accurate tracking of Tropical Cyclone Pam suggested we could potentially receive the remnants of this large storm around the 16th to 18th March. In the end we only felt the very edge of this system in Hawkes Bay. Some very cool southerly winds dried the vineyards out brilliantly immediately after the rain.
The next 3 weeks saw essentially no rain and continued ripening for our red varieties. Another short bout of rain around the 10th April meant some picking prior to that event and then, once again, very cool dry weather followed right up until the end of harvest on the 24th April. The fruit benefited greatly from another 2 weeks on the vine.
Hawke's Bay Vintage 2014
Climate Overview: Wet but fruitful spring. Warm, dry summer.
Rainfall: 40ml rain/month fell over the ripening season of January/February/March (below average rainfall). Significant rain from 7th April punctuates Harvest
Grower Degree Days: Approx. 1500 (A very warm season)
Vintage strengths: Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir
Reflections: 2014 is an extremely strong vintage, particularly for Syrah. Harvest started early on the 22nd of February, with the last fruit picked on Saturday the 12th of April. These are record early picking dates for Trinity Hill.
Hawke's Bay encountered very mild spring and summer conditions leading into the ripening period. Consistently warm (but not extreme) day and night temperatures lead to an advanced season from budburst onwards. Total Growing Degree Days were at record highs and are well ahead of the very warm 2009 and 2013 seasons. The end of the season remained dry and warm until the 5th of April with significant rainfall occurring in the 10 days following.
The main ripening period for 2014 was similar to 2013 in that it was dry but it had the positive effects of small rain incidences at appropriate times to refresh the vines. The beginning of the season was frost free and mild with good soil moisture levels. Good conditions at flowering meant excellent bunch weights and numbers resulting in vineyards delivering good volumes of excellent fruit.
Hawke's Bay Vintage 2013
Climate Overview: Extremely dry with a moderately warm Summer
Rainfall: Only 65 mm total rain over the ripening period of January/February/March (significantly below average rainfall). A volume of rain mid to late April punctuates the harvest.
Grower Degree Days: Approx. 1420 (Average warmth)
Vintage strengths: Chardonnay, Syrah and the Cabernet family
Reflections: 2013 harvest is one of the top vintages ever experienced at Trinity Hill. Chardonnay and Syrah were strong along with Merlot, the Cabernet family and Pinot Noir. It is difficult to think of a weak batch in the cellar from any variety in 2013.
NZ as a whole experienced a very dry summer with many areas reporting higher than average temperatures. For Hawkes Bay, it was more a case of a typical season in terms of summer temperatures, though it certainly was a very, very dry growing period. Grower Degree Days suggest 2013 was cooler than both the 2009 and 2011 seasons.
A dry and moderate season like 2013 set us up perfectly to exploit sub-regional differences and our diverse varietal mix. There were 146 individual harvest intakes from 14 vineyards and 18 grape varieties. Yields were generally slightly above projections from our own vineyards.
Harvest began on 5th March and ended on 19th April and was largely a smooth affair in both vineyard and winery with the 45 day total picking period being fairly typical of our vintage. A dry season does allow for more thoughtful harvest decisions versus the necessity of some earlier seasons.
Reports kindly supplied by Trinity Hill - written by Warren Gibson.