The 2017 vintage… well, it is fair to say Mother Nature has put us, winegrowers, to the test… it will stay engraved in our mind as a challenging season overall and quite atypical for Marlborough particularly over spring and autumn. However we are very pleased with the quality reached for our 15th harvest at Clos Henri Vineyard…
SPRING – September / November
Spring presented some challenges practically, but it was for the good of our vines. Indeed, the wet conditions made it difficult to work, but if we observe it with a more positive eye the substantial rainfalls have helped replenish soil moisture we were desperately waiting for and consequently allowed good growth. It has certainly been a contrasting experience from the last two dry springs.
SUMMER – December / February
Finally December saw Marlborough get back to its reputable climate… the sunshine was here! December remained dryer than usual until mid-January, allowing an excellent crop set. From mid-January, heart of summer, two timely rains occurred (19 th January and 17 th February) which allowed the vines to just reach moderate water stress naturally. These ideal conditions allowed the growth to stop and the ripening to start around véraison time.
By the end of February we were progressively gaining confidence that vintage was announcing itself well…
AUTUMN – HARVEST – March / April
The enjoyable sunshine and heat of the first week of March quickly changed to a more autumnal feel, somehow a little too early… A decent rainfall the second week of March followed by cooler than average temperatures suddenly saw the grape maturation slow down. However, we felt early riper flavours appearing on Sauvignon while sugar levels stayed, sign of balance!
Harvest finally started at Clos Henri on 31st March and ended on 19th April. Everything was set to be going smoothly but challenging weather conditions emerged, mainly due to the tails of cyclones Debbie and Cook which hit New Zealand early April. At that time, the grapes had not reached yet their full maturity so we preferred to patiently (and nervously) wait until we reach optimum ripeness. All our years of observation and hard work to fine tune our vine balance through canopy management, vigour control and obviously organic and biodynamics practices showed their full benefices. The experience of the Bourgeois family along with this meticulous vineyard work has played a major role in taking wise decision. We accepted we would lose some crop by waiting for the wet weather pass through but what we will harvest after thoroughly sorting will be of quality. There was no room for compromise…
Our vineyard is mature now and well in harmony with its terroir to be able to face confidently these difficult weather conditions. Harvesting early would have conducted us to make wines which have showed sign of under-ripeness, which do not have their place at Clos Henri.
We expect our 2017 Pinot Noir to be fresh, lifted and full of finesse, expressing already fresh red berries notes, certainly a reflection of the cool season. It may remind us of the cool 2012 vintage which today drinks superbly and impresses by its finesse. We also believe that the use of whole bunch (up to 35%) during the 2017 maceration did play an important role to preserve the freshness and lifted character of our wines while ensuring a good structure.
As for our 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, as the fermentations progress the wines already reveal attractive notes of bright tangy tropical fruit flavours such as mango, lychee, papaya and dragon fruits supported by a lively acidity.