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The annual grape harvest has recently come to a close in Central Otago. I think that most viticulturists and growers would admit this year has been a challenging and complicated one with a sunny but cool summer, aided by the settled autumn, which has enabled them to get good ripeness.
Unlike in hotter, more homogenous years, the sub regions were noticeably different in picking dates, perhaps akin to vintages past?
The spring was warm and ahead of schedule but summer cooled; allied to strong winds, this led to reduced fruit set at flowering. The unrelenting winds into the new year kept temperatures down, caused vine damage, slowed ripening and could lead to tougher skins on the grapes (requiring a light touch by winemakers).
All the above has led to lower bunch weights, and thus the amount of crop. The end result is that fruit volumes look to be considerably down this year across the region.
While perceptions may have been of rain, it was not dissimilar to average and drier in fact for some, while, thankfully, Cyclones Debbie and Cook (which dropped enormous quantities of rain further north) had petered out by the time they reached the South, causing little concern. An early frost did cause worry in some areas though.
While the growing season itself has been hugely challenging, the long, settled autumn in Central has brought the season to a highly satisfying conclusion and a number of winery people that I have spoken to are quietly upbeat about the quality of fruit and the flavours.
It is an interesting paradox that a tough season does not mean bad wine, and I look forward to tasting 2017 releases as they begin to come on stream late this year.
Rating: Very good to excellent
Attractive nose in the classic strawberries and cream mould. Subtlety and delicacy on the palate, the fruit sweet strawberry notes matched by a lovely, crisp, dry finish. Compact flavours but very nicely judged with excellent balance and drinkability.
Fresh, nice persistence and very moreish.
Reserved and very shy noseoffering hints of musk and red berries. Gentle flavours of strawberry and spice, clean, fresh and vinous. Relatively straightforward but appealing, developing some pithy texture that adds interest.
Easy drinking and rather quaffable.
Quietly appealing nose of smoke, strawberries and something a little bit wild. Explosive flavours on the palate, leaping out with juicy strawberry and red delicious apple. Clearly ripe fruit here, and sweetness on the close matched by a delightful spiciness and a lovely zip of acidity that keeps it fresh.
A very long and appealing finish.