Back to back incredible vintages

After another wet winter in 2019, Spring came early, warm and dry. Flowering took place a week or two ahead of normal, and the fruit set was very good. Apart from two wet days just before Christmas, there was very little rain in December. January had virtually no rain, becoming one of the driest months on record, and was followed by extreme drought conditions throughout February and into the March harvest period. The only significant rain in March fell after all the grapes had been picked.

Temperatures during the ripening period of January and February 2020 was mostly in the mid to high-twenties, with a maximum of 30°C for one day in January. We normally expect at least a day or two over 30°C, so this year conditions remained relatively cool to warm, but very dry.

The early flowering in Spring brought the harvest date forward by 7-10 days compared to normal. This, coupled with warm dry ripening conditions, enabled the grapes to reach perfect maturity.

We have not seen two consecutive vintages of such high quality for many years. In 2020 it was marginally drier and warmer than 2019, resulting in an even more ideal ripening phase right through to harvest. This has contributed to the plush nature of the fruit aromas and flavours, and the extra levels of richness and complexity in these wines.

After the early harvest of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes destined for our Crémant wines, we were able to pick the Hunting Hill Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards at optimal ripeness, and these have given us truly remarkable examples of their style.

All of our vineyards were rapidly reaching their ideal maturity at about the same time, so the ensuing 4 weeks were extremely busy, with harvest in full swing in both Kumeu and Hawkes Bay and the winery in 24-hour mode to be able to cope.

Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris tend to be early, and both were giving us rich colour and texture that have transferred through to the wines which have lovely mouthfeel and weight, with pronounced berryfruit characters on the nose and palate.

The Village Chardonnay vineyards which deliver slightly higher yields and simpler flavours all came on in a rush. They were still able to retain crisp earthy minerality from Kumeu, and some delightful stonefruit aromas from Hawkes Bay, to create a blend which must surely be our best Village Chardonnay ever.

The Kumeu vineyards that contribute to our Estate Chardonnay gave us some magnificent fruit. The level of citrus fruit complexity, and the layering of aromas and flavours that this wine shows are stunning. This is a quality Chardonnay wine of style and pedigree.

The single-vineyard Coddington wine is strongly coloured and richly ripe in the yellow peach and apricot spectrum, with a background of toasted oak and hazelnut. It is the biggest style in our range, and satisfyingly rich as such, but also nicely balanced with its acidity.

Hunting Hill is very distinctive in its terroir typicity, with piercing lemon/lime fruit lift and florality on the nose, with richness and volume in the mouth followed by lingering acidity and minerality on the finish. A beautifully elegant wine.

Mate’s Vineyard is always the last site we pick each year. In 2020, the grapes certainly had the distinctive Mendoza millerandage, giving many small berries along with the normal sized ones, and as a result a wonderfully concentrated palate texture and fruit richness. Although still somewhat shy on the nose coming out of the barrel, with bottle age the full palette of complex aromas and bouquet of this wonderful wine will be gradually and seductively revealed.

Our own Hawkes Bay vineyards at Rays Road produced the best fruit we have seen yet from this unique site. With new clonal plantings of Chardonnay in their first year of production, we were able to blend some extra ripeness and richness with the fresh limestone vibrancy of the existing vines. The result is an exciting Rays Road Chardonnay showing white flowers and lemon on the nose, with vibrant acidity and tingly oyster-shell minerality on the palate.

Similarly with the Rays Road Pinot Noir plantings, we have the best yet from the 5 clones planted. Colours were dense, but more importantly the fruit was ripe and redolent with berryfruit. On the palate these wines have lovely chalky texture with a firm but supple finish. Most of the Pinot Noir has gone into our Kumeu Village blend, aged only in stainless steel to retain the youthful fruit. A selection of the very best ferments, however, have gone into older oak barrels for maturation. This will be released as Rays Road Pinot Noir, and the 2020 sets a new benchmark for our wines from this vineyard.