Wine – Winter reflections

Winter is a time for both work and reflection in the vineyard. The leaves have long gone, and the low winter sun reflects little warmth on the faces of those who steadily prune the vines ahead of the spring growth. Each cut a careful contemplation of how best to shape the coming season. Vineyards need to strike a careful balance between potential for growth and restraint against excess production and lesser quality fruit.

Matakana vineyards have old, clay-rich, well-structured soils on volcanic derived sandy/silty sediments. Dry farmed – without the use of irrigation – the soils soak up rain during the wet months, and give it back slowly through the dry and sometimes drought-prone months in summer. These predominantly hillside sites have low vigour, enough to sustain only moderate cropping levels, ensuring concentration and a quality focus.

On the northern edge of the Auckland isthmus, we are constantly influenced by our maritime location. Temperatures are moderated throughout the year by the mild oceans surrounding us, the predominant south westerly winds bring rain to the west coast, and keep the east coast drier. In autumn, we run a gauntlet of more tropical weather descending towards us with increased, humidity, winds and rainfall – challenging our viticultural husbandry and ensuring that we meticulously maintain quality.

The 2022 harvest highlighted all of these elements. Warm and dry through spring and early summer, the vines enjoyed a great start to the growing season. The flowering was successful and canopy growth was steady and healthy. On February 13, the remnants of tropical cyclone Dovi whipped across the North Island, bring heavy rain and 120-plus km/hr winds. The winds carried sea spray from the surf across a number of the most coastal vineyards, causing damage from salt burn on the vines leaves, and creating havoc with over-row netting used to protect ripening fruit from birds.

A secondary impact from Dovi was a week of warmer than usual nights and very high humidity. All of this made the second half of February a busy time, recovering from storm damage and carefully managing the fruit and canopy of the vines to control any risk of disease pressure. Thankfully, the rest of the growing season was less eventful, and unusually warm – two degrees Celcius above average in March. The harvest period was settled and reward for hard work in the vineyard was found in ripe and concentrated fruit.

The first of the 2022 Matakana wines are now bottled and will make their way into the cellar doors and hospitality venues around the region over the next few months as we move into spring and summer. Predominantly white and rosē wines to start, they will be ripe, flavoursome and ready to enjoy. With one of the most diverse mixes of grape varieties in the country – 28 different French, Italian, Spanish, and Austrian varieties – there will be something for everyone.