Vintage Notes - 2011 Gisborne & Marlborough

Is It June?

Posted on June 5, 2011

Looking back on the past four months, things are a bit of a blur. I don't even think I can call this a harvest update, seeing as I completed my vintage contract two weeks ago. I can't believe how quickly the time has gone! Nonetheless, I've had some amazing experiences.

I spent the past two weeks decompressing after a busy four-month schedule. I arrived in New Zealand on the 2nd of February, spending my first two weeks working in Blenheim. I flew north to catch Gisborne's vintage and spent about five weeks there before returning to Blenheim on the 20th of March, just in time for the beginning of Marlborough's vintage.

 My first day off finally came on the 25th of April; the following day I flew back to Gisborne to help with post-vintage tidy-up. Despite all the traveling, I jumped at the chance to return to Blenheim for the vintage party in May.

My workload was significantly larger, more time consuming, and more rewarding. I'm not sure if I can say the wines this year are better than last, though they are all looking stunning. There are still a few ferments still slowly ticking away, though most of the wines have already been sulphured and placed throughout the winery.

New Zealand Vintage Notes

Change of Pace

Posted on March 15, 2011

Vintage has been rather full on here in Gisborne for the past month. Our winery is most of the way through the mc base (sparkling) grapes, along with several batches of table wines. Weve brought in just over 6,000 tonnes to date, with another several hundred planned to arrive before the weekend. Chardonnays are fermenting beautifully, and we have already inoculating quite a few tanks for malolactic. I'm glad to see the beginning of our aromatic varieties, with a couple beautiful tanks of Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. We've taken in fair more grapes from Hawkes Bay than previous vintages, primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay destined for sparkling wines.

Due to the beautiful warm weather we're having, quite a bit of tonnage was booked for this week. I was set to leave for Blenheim this evening but my flight has been changed and I'll be staying here until Sunday. It will be an interesting transition as the winery there is set to receive its first grapes of vintage tomorrow, and kick off in earnest starting Monday.

Plenty of Grapes

Posted on March 2, 2011

After receiving grapes into the winery for the past week, we've processed over 1,200 tons thus far with the majority aimed at sparkling wine products. We're getting use to the new technology and equipment updates; the recommissioning of our newly automated continuous floatation unit has been a bit trying, but we put through 100,000 litres of Chardonnay yesterday and finished with 31 NTU (often, post-solids separation specifications <100 NTU). Yeast cultures are propagating up quite nicely, besides one or two that were a bit slower than desired. Nonetheless, all the ferments are ticking away and tasting nicely. I think things should steady over the next couple days now that the staff is back into the vintage rhythm.

Long Time Coming

Posted on April 8, 2011

Sorry, I've been missing in action for a few weeks here! I'm well into my fourth week here in New Zealand, and it's been a whirlwind thus far. My first two weeks in Blenheim were spent acclimatising to my new employer: new co-workers, new facility, and new problems. Everyone was more than welcoming and made me feel like home. The facility in beautifully designed and just seven years old. As expected, there are plenty of variables to be considered, especially since we'll be processing over 30% more fruit than last vintage.

I've been back here in Gisborne for ten days or so, and it's been great catching up with old friends. Back at the old winery (purchased by the Blenheim winery), we've been busy preparing for vintage. The new ownership has brought new systems that we're busily attempting to integrate with our old systems. We did get our first grapes of the season last Wednesday, which inevitably pointed out some problems to be addressed. So, hopefully all will be well as we head into this weekend with plans of harvesting nearly 1,000 tons in five days.

Back to New Zealand

Posted on December 15, 2010

After receiving an offer of employment three weeks ago, I quickly sent my visa application to the New Zealand embassy. I'm always in a bit of a rush to get all the formalities taken care of once I find a vintage job (visa, flights, etc.).  After hearing my application may be denied last week, I was relieved when I found out today my application was accepted! I'm pretty excited to get back to New Zealand for a handful of reasons.

  • I'm going to be working in a new place. I am set to start on the 1st of February in Blenheim, the hub of the Marlborough growing region. Located in the north eastern corner of the South Island, Marlborough is the country's most renowned wine region. This will be my first visit to the South Island, too.
  • I'm going to be working at the same place. The facility I have been working with the past two vintages was acquired by the Blenheim facility just recently. After the first couple weeks of training in Blenheim, I'll be returning to Gisborne to help with the bulk of vintage there. 
  • I'm going to be doing a fair bit of traveling. As I mentioned, my job will begin with two weeks in Blenheim. Then, I head to Gisborne for about two months before I return to Blenheim for a month (they have a very short harvest period). I finish off my stay with another month in Gisborne.
  • I'm going to be helping make a large portion of the country's wine in 2011. The two facilities combined intake approximately 14% of New Zealand's total wine grape tonnage (40,000 of 285,000 tonnes). With both facilities producing a broad range of varietals and styles, I will be involved in a pretty good cross section of New Zealand's wine industry.
  • I love New Zealand. The people, the countryside, the wine, the waves. It's a beautiful country and a place that I have happily called home for a significant part of the past two years. I can't wait to catch up with all my friends, have some new experiences, and make some great wine.
Copyright © 2022 :: Michael Horton
Copyright © 2022 :: Michael Horton