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Vintage Report: 2023

As the world eagerly anticipates the wine vintage for 2023, winemakers are keeping a watchful eye on the climate conditions. A vintage that has faced flooding down in the Hawke's Bay region, a cyclone named Gabrielle made its way through out New Zealand and some humid temperatures in January and February. Nevertheless, this uncertainty only adds to the intrigue and excitement of what promises to be a fascinating vintage. Our very own account manager Sydney spent a few days with our friends from Isabel Estate in Marlborough to discuss the new years vintage. So join us, as we delve into the world of winemaking and explore the challenges and triumphs of producing exceptional wine amidst the unpredictable weather patterns of 2023.

Vintage 2023 in Marlborough has been challenging up until the last 6 weeks. Luckily, staffing is no longer an issue in 2023 which relieves a lot of pressure off the winemakers and full time staff at the wineries. The challenges are more focused around the vineyard itself.

The Vineyard

Great wine starts in the vineyard. There was a strong focus on canopy (the leaves and shoots that cover the grapes on the vines) management to ensure disease and rot were kept at bay. The team at Isabel Estate has done a fantastic job. The rain and humidity they got in January this season made many viticulturalists nervous, as the grapes had already begun forming and were beginning to ripen, a stage that is ideally dry and hot. Luckily, the fruit at Isabel Estate were quite loose bunches, allowing them to dry out between the berries themselves, limiting the potential for mold and botrytis spreading throughout the fruit.

March magic

The month of March has been fantastic for Marlborough; it turned the vintage around for them. The fruit is clean and dry, thanks to the cold nights. After walking through the vineyards and tasting the fruit that was still hanging, I was truly impressed with the flavour and quality of the fruit.

Grape madness

Vintage 2023 in Marlborough has been interesting as varieties that usually get picked first, such as the Sauvignon Blanc grapes, they had ripened slower and had caught up with other varieties such as Chardonnay and even Pinot Noir. This makes for a very busy winery, as all the fruit has been coming in at the same time! Regardless, the fruit has all been kept hanging on the vines for as long as they need. The winemakers at Isabel Estate are in no rush to pick the fruit in any sort of order.

Whenever the berries are ready, that’s when they make the decision to pick. Harvest 2023 started in the beginning of March, starting with Pinot and Syrah for the Rosé and Pet Nats. Chardonnay was picked in the middle of March, and the Sauvignon Blanc was picked at the end of March. Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris were picked last, at the beginning of April.

Very luckily, the effects of Cyclone Gabrielle were not too damaging for Isabel Estate. All of the Marlborough Region felt some of the aftermath with some late season rain, but nothing to the extent that the Hawkes Bay region endured.

The fruit at Isabel Estate this year is very concentrated and delicious. The 2023 wines will reflect that! Keep your eye out for some juicy Sauvignon Blancs, flavour packed Pinot Gris, rich Chardonnays and stunning Pinot Noirs. Isabel Estate produces other wine labels on site. During my visit, they received some of the most gorgeous hand-picked Central Otago Pinot Noir fruit. Vintage 2023 in Central Otago has just been incredible. Dry and hot weather has concentrated the flavours in the fruit, so also keep your eyes peeled for some incredible Central Otago Pinot Noir from 2023!

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