Courtesy of Central Otago Pinot Noir Ltd
These comments are generalisations only. Please remember that the mountains separating the sub regions of Central Otago range from 1400-2000 metres causing climatic conditions to vary considerably. Rainfall and harvest dates are from Felton Road Wines Ltd in Bannockburn (harvest date being the beginning of Pinot Noir harvest). Being tucked at the bottom of the Carrick range our rainfall figures would no doubt be higher than Bendigo or even Northburn and Cairnmuir which are only 4km away.
2014 Vintage Report
The growing season started off well with good soil moisture left over from winter. A cool start to October stalled growth which then shot away with a dose of rainfall in early November coupled with a really warm spell (it felt like summer had arrived in November). Coupled with a very calm spring from a wind perspective and good temperatures during flowering and fruit set an excellent crop was set.
Late in December the temperatures cooled down for about 6 weeks until the end of January (one of the coldest on record). We even experienced frosts on some vineyards in January but thankfully there was no economic damage done. The season picked up some heat in the latter part of summer with a warmer and drier than average autumn.
With the exception of Gibbston, all of the sub-regions started veraison at the same time which is unusual. Thankfully, from the wineries perspective, the sub regional ripening spread out and harvest ended up spread out over a number of weeks.
Harvest kicked off a little earlier than average with first pickings starting mid-March and ending mid-May in the Gibbston and Wanaka. The overall fruit quality is good across all sub-regions due to the low late season rainfall.
The wines are showing some early promise with Pinot Noir having deep colour, nice texture and weight. The whites and rosé wines are looking very nice with plenty of varietal fruit definition and weight.
2013 Vintage Report – Please see separate article from Joelle Thomson
2012 Vintage Report
One thing can be said for growing grapes in Central, every season is different requiring its own blend of engagement with the vines. A higher than average rain fall and more moderate temperatures thru the later part of the season perhaps made this one of the better seasons. Following a moderate spring, a perfect flowering period, with moderate bunch numbers set the season up well. Cooler temperatures and lower light days thru the bunch closure to veraison periods, preserved fruit flavors and held acidity. Down pours, mixed with extended dry periods held canopies in good condition allowing good maturation time on the vine. This resulted in good ripe fruit in perfect conditions but as always the truth is in the glass.
2011 Vintage Report
Central Otago, at least early on, escaped the ravages of the big wet summer that affected most of the rest of New Zealand relatively unscathed. In fact, December was one of the driest for a long time, with a welcome string of 30+ degree days throughout December until mid-January. There was also less wind than usual, and these conditions resulted in an ideal, quick flowering with strong berry set (except for those sites – mainly high altitude – adversely affected by the freakish snow/frost event in early November). It wasn’t until mid January that Central gained its first real rain (around 25mm), which was followed by more two weeks later. It wasn’t altogether unwelcome, especially leading into veraison.
Conditions were looking ideal – a great summer with warm conditions, good fruit set, plus disease-free, healthy and open canopies and potentially a very early harvest. But on the 23rd of February, Central Otago up to 75mm fell over 24hours, which in some vineyards caused those berries with enough cell elasticity to balloon, or split those berries incapable of stretching. Suddenly average-sized bunches became oversized bunches. All was not lost – the level of splitting was negligible at best – but it did open the door for some late season botrytis pressure, which appeared after four more (smaller) rain events leading up to the middle of March. The one saving grace is that, with the season earlier than average (though not as early as 2011), there was a finite window for that rot to proliferate. The few weeks leading up to and throughout the harvest the harvest were warm and dry (April was the driest on record): an ideal finish to what should be a stellar vintage.
2010 Vintage Report
2010 will be noted as one of our most powerful and concentrated vintage on record. Albeit the start of the growing season was cooler and exposed vineyards sites throughout the region were hit be quick changing weather systems and frequent windy days. Flowering take place over reasonably unsettled weather in December, and because of this berry size was smaller and bunch weights lowered. Within Central Otago we carry crops in accordance to the vintage, and this vintage only allowed us to carry an average of 4.2 tonnes / ha.
The unsettle weather patterns change from late January, and our vintage finished with higher than usual temperature and long settle periods of dry, hot Autumn days. Crops were picked within the traditional harvest dates on the majority of our regions vineyards, and most often by well sunned t shirt clad pickers.
The smaller berry size, lack of disease pressure and long length of ripening will ensure that this is a vintage that will stand Central Otago proud.
2009 Vintage Report
The season started with a normal spring; neither hot nor cool with normal rainfall. There were the usual occasional frost events that were able to be successfully fought. Good weather over flowering resulted in a very good fruit set. The summer was on the cool side and then February which is normally our warmest and most stable month, was unseasonably cool and wet. In recognition of the cooler summer, and then the cool February, growers needed to keep crop levels down to ensure a successful ripening. March was fortunately a return to normal warm and stable weather and the vines ripened very smoothly while holding good canopies. Picking started in early April which is about normal. Fruit quality was near perfect: small berries with clean fruit. Yields were about normal to just below normal. The young Pinot Noirs are showing beautiful aromatics and a purity of fruit expression that should make it an excellent vintage. Generally the Pinot Noir had slightly higher malic acid than in 2008.The 2009 white wines are aromatically intense with very good varietal expression. They possess a very fine acidity and excellent balance. The sparkling wine harvest started on the 17th of March with outstanding quality.
2008 Vintage Report
The season started with good soil moistures after a relatively wet spring. Warm, stable and sunny weather during flowering resulted in a successful fruit set with moderate to large crops. Above average and well spaced rainfall throughout the summer months led to healthy canopies with a much decreased dependence on irrigation, and in some older vineyards with heavier soils, no irrigation for the whole growing season. Cool night time temperatures and a cold spell leading up to the harvest slowed and compacted the ripening so that harvest proceeded over a 4 week period starting in the last week of March. The harvest period was very dry and the fruit was in excellent condition. For most vineyards the vintage was completed by late April after which the weather turned very cold with unseasonal snow in the vineyards and heavy rain. Larger berries and heavier bunch weights along with the prolonged growing season contributed to bright and focussed wines without excess weight. The wines possess fine and elegant tannins and are similar in structure to the 2006 and 2003’s. The sparkling wine harvest started in mid March along with a late Riesling harvest in June; the quality of the whites is very good with a good acid and fruit balance.
2007 Vintage Report
A wet and cool spring was followed by a cold December and resulted in a slightly later start to the vintage. Numerous frosts were recorded and most were successfully fought, although there were reports of localised frost damage; interestingly mainly on higher elevation vineyards which is unusual. Poor weather during flowering affected the fruit set and reduced yields by around 25%. The cooler start to the season was offset by healthy canopies and the reduced yield meant that for the most part, the vines didn’t have a problem in ripening the fruit. Summer finally arrived in early January, with February being the driest on record with virtually no rainfall. The warm and dry late season conditions allowed the grapes to ripen fully and have lead to wines which display both good concentration and exceptional flavour. The early white bottlings of Riesling and Pinot Gris show very good quality, clarity of fruit and weight. The Pinot Noirs, at this early stage show good concentration and the typical Central Otago Noir definition.Overall 2007 is a very fine quality vintage that will reward the best sites and viticulture producing some very high quality wines.
2006 Vintage Report
An early bud burst and a very dry spring led to even shoot growth and an early flowering. Warm and stable conditions during flowering resulted in a very successful fruit set. The warm conditions continued with harvest starting as early as March 16 for many sites (the earliest on record). Interestingly, March was cooler than normal and provided more “hang time” and slowed the rate of ripening. Without these cooling temperatures the harvest would have been over very quickly and quality could have suffered. Overall this is a very exciting year for Central Otago, with a good year in quality and a very good year in quantity with higher yields than expected. At this early stage, we see similarities to 2001 and 2003; not the concentration of the 2004 and 2005’s but wonderful ripeness.
2005 Vintage Report
A good warm start (Budburst around 10th of October) to Spring with no frost damage reported anywhere. The latter half of November and the month of December were miserably cold, (4 degrees below average monthly temperature) drastically affecting crop set with most areas seeing a 50% crop reduction (Average bunch weight at harvest 40 to 60gr, normally 80 to 120gr).January and February were both slightly warmer than average with a mini heat wave through for two week’s where temperatures approached 40 C! There was more rainfall than average through these months with a shower every couple of weeks lessening the dependence upon irrigation. Autumn played a mostly benign hand with cool weather and very little rainfall allowing fruit to hang to full ripeness resulting in very low Malic acid levels. A late autumn frost did affect ripening in some parts of central. Total tonnage harvested 1695 tonnes.
2004 Vintage Report
Very good even bud burst before frosts on 14 and 28 November which are responsible for a large reduction from the anticipated 4,000-4,500 tonnes down to 1,800 tonnes. Generally cool summer with above average rainfall in February before weather settled and ripening could proceed sufficiently in warmer sites before the early frost during harvest on 8 April. Despite being a very challenging vintage, early samples have shown very good tannins and fruit expression.
2003 Vintage Report
Very cold weather in spring resulted in slow spring growth yet amazingly frost damage free. Unusual hot spells followed by cold spells in early summer. Typical warm to hot February and March (incredibly dry), evened growth and ripening. An unusual series of frosts in early to mid April slowed ripening allowing hang time without usual rapid sugar accumulation. Harvest started on April 6. Rainfall Feb=30mm, Mar=2mm, Apr=24mm.
2002 Vintage Report
Very cold winter temperatures in 2001 were followed by an unusually early and warm spring. This was followed by a moderate summer with warm temperatures without the highs (few days into the 30’s) and lows (very few summer snow events on mountain tops). Strangely enough, this led to the earliest harvest date yet of March 26. Yields were low to moderate with small berries. Rainfall: Feb=12mm, Mar=19mm, Apr=53mm. Harvest at Bendigo started on March 21 for Pinot Noir still wine and for sparkling wine on March 11. The last very early harvest was in 1990 at Black Ridge on March 27.
2001 Vintage Report
After the lower yielding 2000 vintage, 2001 was large. Incredibly hot, sunny and stable weather during the flowering in early-mid December gave us the faster and most even flowering yet seen. A warm summer with the heavier crops, harvest started on April 6. Rainfall Feb=25mm, Mar=28mm, Apr=8mm.
2000 Vintage Report
A vintage that was dominated by the heavy rains in mid-November of 1999 that caused the flooding in Queenstown and Wanaka. December was dry then followed by a very wet January (117mm). Feb=28mm, Mar=32mm, Apr=53mm. Low to moderate yields caused by very small berry size gave wines excellent concentration. Harvest date of April 12.
1999 Vintage Report
A very hot summer with many days over 30°C resulted in an early harvest starting on March 27. Large crops probably helped balance this quick ripening. Interestingly, around April 15, 100mm of snow fell coating vineyards in the Gibbston area and lighter but still enough to dust tanks and equipment in Bannockburn – an unusual sight especially the snow on the bird nets. Rainfall Feb=4mm, Mar=83mm, Apr=69mm.
1998 Vintage Report
Warmer than 1997 with low to moderate yields. Harvest started on April 6. Rainfall Feb=34mm, Mar=69mm, Apr=41mm.
1997 Vintage Report
A cool summer with several snow events on the surrounding mountains. Low to moderate yields. Harvest started on April 20. Rainfall Feb=58mm, Mar=43mm, Apr=84mm. Heavy frost on 26 April over the whole region.