by / Comments Off on 2020 HARVEST – A MEMORABLE VINTAGE! / 31 View / August 6, 2020

THERE’S no doubting 2020 is already one for the history books, but for New Zealand winemakers it will also go down as one of the best vintages in recent memory. Whilst there was some variation across the country, for the most part a cool, wet spring gave way to a long, dry, warm but not overly hot summer with very little rain or disease pressure throughout the crucial harvest months. It’s probably a good thing the weather gods were kind as the vintage was not without its stressful points – New Zealand went into strict lockdown on March 26th smack in the middle of harvest. After some uncertainty, it was agreed that the grape harvest could proceed with producers adhering to very strict social-distancing and other conditions. Vintage crews were split into non-mixing ‘bubbles’, family members were drafted in as pickers and cellar hands and it was a very different pace from a typical harvest. Sarah-Kate Dineen, owner and winemaker of Maude in Central Otago, outlines, “Social distancing with picking and winery operations was definitely not the easiest. Massively expensive and slow. But we got there, no-one got sick and we’re out the other side with some sexy looking wines in the house…gotta be a silver lining right…?!”
Julian Grounds, who as Craggy Range’s head winemaker oversees fruit from Hawke’s Bay and Martinborough was equally enthusiastic, commenting, “Not much can be uttered other than to say… it was perfect. Few would have thought we could back up the amazing vintage conditions of 2019. But the season did. And possibly improved on it. I cannot believe the level of energy in the whites and phenolic ripeness in the reds. It stands to say than many will make some of the greatest wines in living memory from a vintage that most of us will remember for what was happening all around us.”
Marlborough’s Clive Jones, winemaker/GM at Nautilus feels, “The 2020 harvest will be remembered as ‘unusual’ given the measures and practices we had to instigate to ensure we all remained safe from the virus. Throughout the harvest, the one thing that always remained on our side was the weather. Perfect ripening conditions with an early arrival of the autumn weather pattern of cool nights and warm, but not hot, days meant for nice slow flavour development. The fruit condition was pristine and some of the best we have seen. It didn’t really matter if you picked today or tomorrow. In fact, if the pubs had been open, we would probably would have gone to the pub ‘today’ & picked ‘tomorrow’. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option as the pubs were closed so we kept on picking, thankful that we had another vineyard picked and safely in the winery.”
With the 2020 wines now safely in tank and barrel, and life in New Zealand returning to a new sort of normality, winemakers can go to the pub and wine drinkers can look forward to the first of the 2020 whites reaching the shelves. Julian Grounds sums up, “We felt extremely grateful to be allowed to work throughout the lockdown period, and for the care, patience and love shown by the industry in general to their workers. From this, the wines are better for it.”