Winemakers braced for top vintage

By Roger Moroney -
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The Christy cousins were part of the picking crew tasked with taking the last of Clearview's reds from the vines. Photo / Duncan Brown
The Christy cousins were part of the picking crew tasked with taking the last of Clearview's reds from the vines. Photo / Duncan Brown

As the last of Clearview Estate's syrah grapes were carefully hand-harvested yesterday, co-owner and winemaker Tim Turvey had one word to describe the 2016 vintage.

"Amazing."

The syrah, which has lingered about a fortnight later than it normally would have, is looking so packed with potential Mr Turvey was prepared to lay even greater praise upon it - harking back to the vintage of four years ago which many were describing as among the very best over the past century.

He said the latest red vintage was shaping up to be "as good if not better than the 2013 vintage".

With a smile of satisfaction, echoed by the region's other winemakers and viticulturists, Mr Turvey said the season, and what it had accordingly produced, had been "another cracker in paradise", adding that the elongated nature of the ripening period was presenting flavours in chardonnay and syrah particularly, that they had never had before.

"The tasting that we've been doing is telling us that this vintage is a little bit special and we will be treating it very well with the 'kid glove' care we normally reserve for the best vintages - it is quite an amazing vintage."

Clearview Estate winemaker Matt Kirby said the coastal terroir, plus the long summer-like warmth, had helped the syrah grapes continue to enhance in quality.

Now in his second vintage at Clearview Estate, Mr Kirby is thrilled with the quality.

"Here on the coast, we have our own microclimate. We're north facing yet have the ocean breeze moderating effect - so that and the sustained mid-20 degree days we've been enjoying has meant the brix are high, the acids are great, and the flavour is definitely there."

There were, however, some nerves and anxious glances at the long-range weather forecasts over the past fortnight though as the grapes were left for that last push of late autumn warm weather.

"Oh yes, because if you get the big rain you've lost it," Mr Turvey said.

Which is what happened back in 1987 when after a great growing season a thing called Cyclone Bola struck and wrecked much of the vintage across the region.

And while this season was going superbly, after the heat of February and mild March and April, Mr Turvey and other winemakers knew they were on to something very good, but did not want to speak too soon.

"No, say nothing until it's in the pot," he said with a smile.

And now, with the last of Clearview's syrah and other final picks across the region, it is and words like "amazing" can be rolled out - along with plenty of smiles.

About 25 pickers put in the hours on the terraces behind Te Awanga yesterday to harvest about 15 tonnes (which equals about 15,000 bottles) of the late syrah.

Mr Turvey said the quality across the whole region was again a huge bonus for the local wine industry.

"To get global attention there's nothing like putting out great wines year after year."

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