Author - Steve Gill, Winemaker Te Mania Wines
The growing season started with dry summer type conditions and then ended with wet spring conditions, a real topsy-turvy season.
With the very dry spring, water restrictions were in place and with the warm sunny days in November it looked like a great summer was on its way. Flowering conditions were almost perfect and with a great fruit set bunches were looking good. The berries were looking to be small with the dry conditions in December (10mm of rain) and everybody was looking forward to lots of fruit with concentrated flavours.
The Niwa forecast for summer 2018 in January was ‘rainfall near normal in north of the south island’ and ‘the rest of the south could see less rain than normal’. I remember talking to our experienced vineyard worker Ian at the same time, who predicted the warm seas will cause wet storms to hit in January and February….. well we all know who was right!
January was hot with record mean temperatures, we also had a 200 mm extreme rainfall event in the middle. At the time this break in the drought was welcomed by some. What wasn’t welcomed was what was to come….
Two ex-tropical cyclones battered the region in February with ‘unsettled weather’. Fehi in early Feb and Gita in late Feb.
Vineyards which had looked to be in great balance with a healthy canopy and exposed fruit in January suddenly had a huge flush of growth. The rush was on to put sprays back on, extra trimming, more leaf plucking, bird nets on varieties going through veraison, mowing grass.
With a Panglossian optimism of ‘all is good’ and hard work the vineyards were whipped back into shape. A lot of vineyards were looking good again and set up for a great vintage if the weather played ball…..
Picking started in early March. In some varieties the tight bunches, moisture and hot nights resulted in disease so required a careful, slow hand pick to ensure the quality was there.
In most varieties sugar levels were low and acid levels were high. Chardonnay fared the best in this challenging vintage and will make some amazing wines. Sauvignon Blanc also weathered the storms very well and have lovely flavours and aromas. There are a lot of delicious Nelson wines from the 2018 Vintage, something to be proud of after the topsy-turvy season!