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BRIAN’S 2013 VINTAGE REPORT

2013 Vintage Report
April 23, 2013

With all the fruit in the winery, ferment aromas wafting throughout and the leaves on the vines turning golden it is a good time to reflect on vintage 2013 at Mahi.

I suppose one of the first things, and one of the key differences of the 2013 vintage is that I am writing this report so early, with the vintage finishing nearly a week earlier than most recent ones. Looking back over the last few years the dates of the start and finish to vintage for Mahi have been:

2013 March 28 – April 18
2012 April 7 – May 3
2011 March 21 – April 24
2010 March 30 – April 24
2009 March 27 – April 25

One of the many things I love about wine, vintage and everything slightly vinous is that nothing stays the same; every vintage, every wine, and pretty well the wine industry in general is always different, making life constantly invigorating and challenging. Just looking at the last two vintages we had such variation, moving from the cool, light and late 2012 vintage to the dry, early and concentrated 2013.

The 2013 vintage growing season kicked off with a pretty cool September and October and bud-break was later than say the vintages of 2005 – 2009, more similar to 2010 than anything else. It started warming up in the last week of November and through the flowering period of December we experienced very warm conditions, high winds and no rainfall, all perfect conditions for flowering of wind-pollinated vines. I think Christmas Day was the hottest on record, which go back about 66 years, and the average temperature in December was nearly two degrees above the average. These conditions all combined to ensure that pretty well every flower in some vineyards was pollinated, ensuring that we did not have another very small crop. This is also the time that the potential fruitfulness of the buds for 2014 is being determined; with warm soils and good light meaning that the buds for next harvest should have high potential fruitfulness.

The amazingly dry and clear summer of 2012/2013 continued but interestingly we did not have very high temperatures; with January being 0.2 degrees above average, February being 0.6 degrees below average and March being about average. The latest report shows that on the date we finished picking the Growing Degree Days for the whole season were only about 1% above average, so one of the closest to the Long Term Average for many years.

A number of people have mentioned that fruit flavours may be altered because of the great summer but the interesting part of this vintage is that the temperatures were not higher than average, and because of the clear skies the diurnal differentiation, the difference between night and day temperatures, was greater than normal, serving to retain both flavour and acidity in the grapes. The clear days also mean that there was very little Botrytis pressure so the fruit that came into the winery was very clean and we didn’t need to use the sorting table much at all.

The vintage for us started with some Chardonnay from the Taylor vineyard and continued steadily over the three weeks and our last fruit, as normal, came from our southern Ward vineyard, which reached a record ripeness because of the low crop in that vineyard. Throughout the harvest period we had three small rain events that did not induce any Botrytis issues, more serving to keep the dust down, and allowing us a day of no picking to catch up in the winery.

The whites are still fermenting and the reds mainly still on skins so it is hard to determine exactly what they will be like but the fundamentals of quality have been laid down. We know that the fruit ripened in dry conditions, at quite normal temperatures, with nice cool nights and that it was very clean, so we are excited.

Looking at the varieties I suppose it feels like the conditions were very good for the whites in particular. We are excited about the Pinot Noir but noted that the berries were slightly larger than the 2012 vintage so we will have to wait to see what they look like when they are pressed off skins and resting in barrels.

From a logistical side of life the winery worked really well with no break-downs at all, a really great team in the winery, and an easy vintage in terms of picking decisions. The winery team this year comprised of two Italians, an Oregonian, an Australian (Gemma) and three New Zealanders, being Matt, Pat and I. A good friend from Auckland came down for a couple of weeks of plunging, tipping, cleaning, beers and coffees, which also helped make life easier.

After the low harvest of 2012 all the tanks in the valley were empty so there was massive demand for grapes this year, meaning that the prices per tonne have increased by about 25% on 2012. It was a very strange year in terms of cropping; with some areas having very low crops, caused by small pockets of frost and higher than normal grass grub damage, and other vineyards cropping higher than predicted. Because of this it is hard to get a picture of what the whole New Zealand grape production will be. It will certainly be over 300,000 tonnes, so it will be one of the largest that we have seen but the industry sold wine equivalent to 322,000 tonnes in the 2012 year, so a larger vintage is needed and I presume the first lots of 2013s will be released quite early because of low stocks.

To put this in some sort of context the vineyard plantings of all of New Zealand are about the same as that of the Champagne region, with their production in terms of litres being higher. The industry is still a very small player and vintages like 2013 will only help to increase the quality image, and reality, of New Zealand wines and hopefully mean more of the wine goes into labelled products that are attached to a real winery.

We are just about the head out on the Kereru for a night in the Sounds sharing some good food, good times, fishing and a fair bit of blind options tasting.

Look forward to sharing the fruits of the 2013 vintage with all of you in due course!!

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