Bud burst came slightly early in the middle of April. A slightly cooler May slowed things back to about average. The fruit load looked promising. A relatively dry period ensued, with the formation of good bunches & the additional warmth spurred growth. However, fruit set although optically even occurred over a longer period than usual, with marked differences between & within our 5 main vineyard parcels. A function of wetter conditions.
The grass growth, that had us mowing in the tractor every weekend, slowly eased with the very limited rainfall through the end of July into early August, but the the task gave way to “canopy management”, tucking in unruly wind-swept vines; this was one of the windiest summers on record. The whole summer seemed to be a succession of mowing, strimming & vine trimming. The humid & wet end to August slowed things down again.
The High Field Pinot Noir showed signs of the windier weather and, being predominantly on free draining Greensand, lack of summer rainfall. This manifested in decent fruit load on these younger vines, but limited cane development, presenting a pruning challenge for next year. The more sheltered Hawk Field growth remained very good, while the vineyard at Hobdens, from whence Mayfield Expression Brut Rose comes, with its denser water retaining clay, positively thrived; benefitting no doubt from the generous composting that it received earlier in the year. Late August rains that doubled what we had received in the prior four-and-a-half months proved beneficial on balance, allowing the berries to swell in a favourable manner & removing some early signs of drought, while much of the excess water ran-off the ultra-dry soils into the many streams that surround us.
The year also saw several pairs of Buzzards take up permanent residence at both vineyard sites. Their mewling cry as they swooped & rose on the thermals over the vineyards was a joy to behold. It also deterred some of the smaller berry eating birds. The Hobby, en route from Northern Europe back to Africa for the winter, also joined us again.
If the deluge had ended with August, it would have been a textbook year. We all hoped for an Indian Summer through September & early October. However, this failed to fully materialise. Temperature levels were about average, but rainfall picked up again & sunlight levels were not optimal. The pace of ripening slowed markedly. The longer period of fruit set from earlier in the summer began to become apparent as some parcels moved ahead of others. Véraison emerged at about the same time as last year, but it was very slow & uneven.
We set about lightening the fruit load in the Pinot Noir by “colour stripping” unripe green bunches, forcing the ripening into the colouring clusters. Our oldest parcel of vines that sit on clay at Hobdens were the most even and advanced & we harvested them first on October 16th. They yielded possibly the best quality fruit that we have ever seen from that vineyard, with loads similar to the bumper 2014 crop.
The fruit load on the main Chardonnay parcel at Lakestreet was excellent, offering fine fruit flavours, albeit with slightly lower sugar levels than usual, while the Pinot Gris load was lighter than in previous years. The Pinot Noir parcels were mixed, but the ripe bunches offered great flavours. We elected to undertake a selective pick of the Pinot Noir vine by vine sub parcel by sub parcel & pressed in the winery more lightly than usual. In effect, we sacrificed volume for quality. The result was encouraging: base wines with excellent fruit flavours & manageable acids, offering potential for wines of above average longevity.