With the previous vintage of 2021 presenting all sorts of challenges and ultimately resulting in unusually low yields across most wine growing regions in New Zealand, it was a welcome relief that 2022 from early on promised normal yield volumes and the opportunity to refill depleted tanks and barrels inside the nation's wineries. However, 2022 was not all smooth sailing and still managed to throw a few curveballs to keep winemakers and viticulturists on their toes.
At Vineonline we are lucky enough to have a close partnership with Isabel Estate in Marlborough with additional vineyard holdings in the illustrious Central Otago. We caught up with Chief Winemaker, Jeremy McKenzie, to get the lowdown on the 2022 vintage and what we can expect from the resulting wines.
Before the 2022 growing season had even gotten underway New Zealand wine producers were already staring down the barrel of COVID creating havoc once more. Restricted access to international seasonal workers, mask-wearing, social distancing and higher levels of staff absence due to illness and isolation requirements have all played their part in adding additional levels of complexity that pre-COVID would not have previously featured in a vintage report.
A typically warm and uneventful October, November and December, the crucial period of the growing season when fruit sets, promised a positive and bountiful start to the vintage. However, an unusually cold and wet February increased the potential for disease pressure and delayed ripening, threatening a successful harvest and making for a tense atmosphere amongst the team. Thankfully a dry and warm period from late February until late March took the pressure off and allowed for optimal ripening conditions. Lovely, warm days and crisp cool nights throughout Autumn enabled the grapes to achieve the desired sugar levels and provide ideal harvesting conditions.
At their flagship winery, Isabel Estate, harvest commenced on the 7th of March with the picking of some early Pinot Noir for the Isabel Estate Methode Traditional sparkling wine and finished on the 5th of April with the last grapes coming in off the vines used to produce the Estate Pinot Gris. Additional Sauvignon Blanc fruit sourced from the Waihopai & Awatere Valleys landed in the winery in pristine condition although slightly later than the main Wairau Valley with harvest from these sub-regions stretching out into mid-April.
Central Otago experienced a stellar vintage. While all the same challenges of staff shortages and COVID protection measures played their part, the region as a whole has experienced higher yield volumes with outstanding quality already evident. For the Isabel team this has also been proven true with a great balance of high quality fruit and more yield than previous seasons. A fantastic growing period with hot, dry weather and a drawn out season across the sub regions allowing excellent physiological ripeness and potentially one of the top vintages out of the region for some time.
Wines to watch out for will be the lush, ripe and fruit-driven Pinot Gris from Marlborough and as expected, Central Otago has once again delivered on the layered and complex Pinot Noir from the 2022 vintage.