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Montana winemakers toast to the new vintage

Montana winemakers toast to the new vintage

It’s no secret that for a winemaker, a year is defined by the changing of the vintage and more significantly the release of the new vintage wines heralding the start of the new year. Montana’s winemakers recently celebrated the 2009 vintage by raising a toast to New Zealand’s quintessential wine style, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Montana’s white wines from the 2009 vintage, including the latest Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, the wine style created by Montana in 1979, are looking outstanding.

“This year’s wine is truly sunshine in a bottle, a welcome reminder of the great weather we’ve enjoyed over harvest,” says Jeff Clarke, Montana’s chief winemaker.

One of the reasons that Marlborough has become the world’s best place to grow Sauvignon Blanc is its long, dry autumn and 2009 was no exception. After the wet, cool February, March was cool, sunny and dry. This resulted in balanced crop loads and carefully exposed bunches that Montana’s viticulturists and vineyard teams worked so hard to achieve, just what was needed for maximum flavour development. The only rain came later in April when all the fruit had already been picked.

“This year’s harvest will go down in the books as the one where we didn’t lose a day through weather interruptions in Marlborough,” says Jeff. “This allowed us to bring in every block of quality fruit at its best.”

Gisborne, up near the eastern tip of the North Island, had a very consistent season too. A dry winter followed by a fine, warm spring meant that soils were drier than normal as the vines began their new growth cycle. The dry weather continued through the season, allowing viticulturists to achieve great control over vine vigour, which is always one of the key quality factors in this fertile region. The result was that the 2009 vintage produced modest crops of well ripened, richly flavoured grapes for our varietal Chardonnay and sparkling wine base.

Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast a few hours south of Gisborne, had a wet spell at the end of February. Fortunately, free-draining soils on vineyards such as Tuki Tuki helped the white varieties recover well to achieve good richness and concentration, while the region’s famous reds received the benefit of settled weather later in autumn. The red wine varieties are the standouts for Hawke’s Bay this year, with great Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah harvested. Colour and flavours are strong and well-defined, while deft winemaking has helped to evolve supple tannins.

The Waipara vineyards, on the coastal Canterbury hills some 250km south of Marlborough, had a season of ups and downs. Late snow and frost threatened the start of the growing season, but fine weather set in and everything was on track for a good harvest, until a hailstorm early in January destroyed a fair portion of the crop on the low-lying part of one vineyard. However, working with nature is all part of it and the vineyard teams diligently removed damaged bunches and were rewarded when the remaining fruit developed into some of the best they have ever had.

The 2009 vintage in Central Otago was a cooler year than the previous few, but this cool, wet spring naturally reduced fruit-set and this, combined with the yield management achieved through pruning, resulted in a smaller quality yield overall. Rainfall during February refreshed the canopies and allowed ripening to occur at a sedate pace, all the while adding flavour intensity to the grapes. This resulted in intense flavoured Pinot Noir, and even as young wines they are already showing well, with excellent colour, aromatics and depth of flavour.

And regarding New Zealand’s quintessential wine style Sauvignon Blanc, Jeff Clarke Montana’s chief winemaker comments, “Despite a few tense moments, the long, dry autumn saw us harvest some truly exceptional fruit, including our hallmark Sauvignon Blanc. The 2009 vintage was very well managed in the vineyard and it shows in the bottle. We are very excited by what we are seeing in these wines."


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