Winemakers celebrate 'vintage of the century'

It's confirmed - the excitement as grapes of every variety were harvested throughout Hawke's Bay last month has burst into euphoria; pressed grapes now safely in barrels and casks are being touted as exceptional and 2013 as the "vintage of the century" for Hawke's Bay.

An informal survey of winemakers from Central Hawke's Bay to Esk Valley, from the coast to the (almost) ranges is unanimous - the flavours and colour of this season's pressed grapes, both white and red, could not be better.

Sacred Hill's Tony Bish believes this year's grapes will make the "greatest wine Hawke's Bay has seen".

For Tim Turvey of Clearview Estate Winery, this was the best vintage in his 30 years of winemaking.

"The Hawke's Bay vintage of the century," he says.

"It's been perfect across all varieties."

Bish makes the same claim. He believes the 2013 vintage will be one "people drink and talk about for the next 20 years".

Rod McDonald, of Rod McDonald Wines, says, "Overall, the wines that will be rolling out in two to four years' time will have people talking about Hawke's Bay, and our suitability for producing later ripening reds and chardonnays, for years."

Winemakers agree the ideal climatic conditions in Hawke's Bay this season created grapes of all varieties at optimum ripeness that will require less additives and minimal manipulation.

Hugh Crichton, winemaker with Vidal, reports "the work's done for winemakers; the weather during the season and what went on in the vineyards has given us an outstanding vintage."

The low ph levels and the balanced acid and sugar ratios evident in the red varieties particularly, is exciting the winemakers.

The denseness of the tannins present is also animating winemakers. It indicates 2013 wines will age well without being "big overblown fruit bombs", says Crichton.

Trevor Shepherd, winemaker at Linden Estate in Esk Valley, agrees the fruit-driven wines with their low tannins will create softer, more elegant wines.

He notes red grapes in particular have produced higher yields of juice with up to 100 more litres per tonne according to "the word around the camp fire".

In Central Hawke's Bay, Lime Rock winemaker Rosie Butler is delighted with the "fabulous" vintage, which has not only produced "amazing merlot" and "rich and beautiful cabernet franc" but has suited her pinot noir and gruner veltliner grape crops.

Bish believes this season will be the best ever because of a combination of factors.

"1998 is a vintage that has been proclaimed before but we have better base materials this year," he says.

"We have learnt so much in the interim years. We have the right clones in the right places, our viticulture practices have improved and we've learnt to better manage canopy cover in dry years.

"The result is that we have a base that is a whole lot better for balance."

- Hamilton News

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