2020 Harvest Report Read about our surprising vintage
This'll go down as a year to remember!
The 2020 harvest season will be one to remember for decades to come. The New Zealand wine industry had commenced picking just as the government announced a nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19. The team did an outstanding job to produce some spectacular results, including top quality fruit and what looks to be an outstanding vintage.
Harvest Under Lockdown
With COVID-19 looming on the horizon and harvest fast approaching, the New Zealand wine industry held its breath. Preparations for a nationwide lockdown meant there was a very serious risk that harvest would not be allowed to go ahead. The inability to pick grapes would have meant no 2020 vintage produced, affecting wine production and retail for several years to come.
Rather than cross our fingers, the Giesen team sprang into action and were the first to take drastic action to protect our teams and preserve the chance of a successful harvest. This included separating the team into night and day shift teams, each with their own winemaking staff, and going above and beyond to ensure their safety. Many of our team were moved into hotels and accommodation away from home a full week before the nationwide lockdown was announced – our staff banding together to ensure we could still deliver on our harvest goals.
This, coupled with the industry’s classification as essential business, meant that harvest proceeded under unprecedented safety standards including rigorous physical distancing measures and significant additional work by our teams. They overcame the challenges of running completely separate day and night shift teams, developing brand new processes, and in many cases being isolated from friends and family as well. The Giesen brothers and leadership team would like to extend their gratitude to those staff who ensured there was a harvest to be proud of.
Marlborough saw a mild start to the growing season, with the soil retaining a good level of moisture after a fairly dry winter period. Budburst was nice and even across all key varietals. The warm, dry summer season was tempered this year by unusual trans-Tasman weather patterns which helped to reduce evaporation. This allowed irrigation to be maintained, ensured vine canopies stayed healthy, and contributed to the robust acid structure and overall condition of the fruit.
Settled weather during the harvest period allowed the winemakers to pick depending on physiological ripeness, delivering optimum flavour spectrums across the board.
The Hawke’s Bay region experienced a hot, dry growing season, perfect for Chardonnay and Merlot. Rainfall in early October helped to maintain water supply for the remainder of the season. Inland vineyards excelled under these conditions, with wonderful varietal expression and beautifully ripened fruit. In particular, the region’s Chardonnay was harvested earlier than normal in excellent condition, showing wonderful varietal expression. Perfect weather conditions allowed the team to wait for optimal ripeness and flavour before commencing harvest.
Along with most of New Zealand’s East Coast, the Waipara region enjoyed a long, hot growing season. Conditions were ideal for Riesling, which made for perfect fruit with good clean flavours. Water supply was constant throughout the season, enabled by the rain shadow from the coastal hill to the east of Waipara.
Harvest this year was earlier than previous vintages, and the winemaking team were able to pick each block as it reached optimal flavour accumulation – testament to the exceptional summer growing conditions. This resulted in the Riesling blocks delivering fruit that is varietally expressive, with citrus and stonefruit at the fore.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to experience a vintage, we bet you’re extra curious about what it was like during lockdown! So our team have put together a sneak peek into how their day to day lives went during this year’s harvest.
Read about harvest from the perspective of our Chief Winemaker, Nikolai St George; our Company Viticulturalist, Ant Bell; and our Senior Winemaker, Duncan Shouler.