Growing conditions for the 2020 Hawke's Bay wine vintage have been great and late last week they were also great for the first chardonnay grapes to be carefully hand-picked and taken from the vines.
Under blue skies and warm winds the harvest began for Villa Maria Estate for wines which will come under the branding of Vidals, which comes under the Villa Maria umbrella.
For Villa Maria company viticulturist Ollie Powrie and the crew it was a sight as warming as the weather as the fruit from the vines on the Lyons Vineyard off SH50 near Fernhill was in "exceptional" condition.
Apart from some mid-spring downpours back in October Mother Nature had pretty much delivered a fine weather package for winegrowers and winemakers.
And Powrie said that in the case of the chardonnay crop on the Lyons Vineyard it meant an early pick was in order.
"It is probably 10 to 12 days earlier than usual," he said of the late February harvest.
"I have not seen chardonnay picked in February since I have been here — and that's 13 years," he said.
"It's usually March."
Long dry spells with good levels of heat were perfect for bringing out the best in ripeness, and that had been achieved nicely.
"The quality is good — it is looking exceptional," Powrie said.
"It is one out of the bag."
He said other producers had also begun harvesting where vines had been managed for higher quality with less fruit for more flavour.
Villa Maria's chardonnay harvest would create Vidals Legacy Chardonnay — a small volume variety which has become acclaimed as a world class chardonnay and which, after Vidal Estate winemaker Hugh Crichton has worked his finely honed skills upon it, is likely to be released in July or August next year, along with their Soler Chardonnay.
"The fruit quality is incredible," Crichton said.
In the wake of the outstanding 2019 vintage he said it was a great trend to see occurring.
"There will be a lot of great chardonnays coming out this year, and the more great wines a region can produce the greater it is for the region."
Hawke's Bay chardonnays had staked a firm place on the global market, Crichton said.
He said about 80 per cent of their chardonnay fruit was now in, and production of it would begin at the time it would normally have started to be harvested.
The great climate run would also likely lead to an earlier than usual harvest for the later ripening reds like syrah, cabernet and merlot.
"At this stage we are looking at late March early April for them to come off," Powrie said, adding that forecast rain later this week would not be significant enough to cause any issues.