Last year’s warm winter, mild spring and ideal flowering conditions, have fast-forwarded the grapes’ ripening process in some of our Marlborough vineyards this season.Visible signs of veraison – when the berries begin to darken and gain colour – are already apparent, 12 days earlier than last year according to one of our long-term growers Rob Goulter.
“Once veraison begins, the grapes darken phenomenally quickly, all the berries will be a beautiful deep purple within a week,” says Rob.
“From here on out, the sugar-levels will continue to rise – they’re about 13 brix now, and we’ll wait until they get to 24+ brix before harvest.”“Harvest is usually between the 8th and the 15th of April, but it could be earlier this year because of the warm conditions,” he says.
Rob is a fifth generation Marlborough farmer, and his family has been raising sheep and beef in the Omaka Valley since 1849. In 1989 he decided to diversify his business and have a crack at growing grapes, planting 41 hectares in vineyards.Those familiar with Saint Clair Family Estate Pioneer Block 5 Bull Block Pinot Noir, might be interested to know the name harks back to the Jersey stud farm that was located in the same spot where the Pinot Noir grapes are grown today.
It’s a busy time of year in the vineyard – canopy trimming, leaf plucking, fruit thinning and bird-netting – to ensure small yields of high quality fruit required for our Pioneer Block range.
Rob juggles vineyard work with managing his stock and they have just finished shearing their lambs too.
With harvest still a month or two away, the fruit has a long way to go before it’s ready for harvest – so what’s the ideal weather?
“No rain until harvest would be best,” he says. “There’s always a bit of a Mexican stand-off between what we’d like for the vines and what we’d like for the stock, although it usually works out in the end.”