A Hawke's Bay winegrower is picking this year's Chardonnay crop to be the region's best ever vintage.
Hugh Crichton of Vidal Estate says the harvest is showing all the signs of a 'landmark vintage for Hawke's Bay Chardonnay,' and could bring a much-needed export windfall for the local industry.
"We picked earlier this year as the brix levels, the indicator for ripeness, were ideal for producing balanced alcohol levels. The fruit has a lovely depth of flavour despite the relatively low sugar content, with a fresh natural acidity and fruit purity," Crichton said.
Hugh Crichton inspects his 2014 chardonnay crop. Photo / Joe Michael
Crichton says the 2014 Chardonnay vintage is a return to form for the Hawke's Bay after years of low crop yields and tough price competition from Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
And with warm, dry weather continuing to be forecasted for Hawke's Bay, the 2014 vintage is also looking promising for the Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon harvest.
"This year we're seeing good yields in our Chardonnay blocks and the fruit is perfectly clean. This high quality clean fruit allows us to naturally ferment the juice, not adding any cultured yeast, which with careful monitoring can heighten the quality of the final wine."
Crichton says Chardonnay is going through a renaissance, shifting from an oaky, buttery Chardonnay to a lighter and fresher wine.
"As well as 2014 wines being top notch in terms of taste we'll have more of it to sell, which is really important as we continue to focus on growing our sales abroad, particularly in China," Crichton said.
"Chardonnay is China's most popular white wine varietal. That's an advantage for us."
• Chardonnay is New Zealand's third biggest wine export and made up 22 per cent of Hawke's Bay's total wine production in 2013.
• China is currently New Zealand's fifth biggest export market for wine. In 2012 China's wine market was valued at just over US$10 billion.
• Hawke's Bay is New Zealand's second largest wine growing region at 5,093 ha, producing 38,829 of harvested grapes in 2013.