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Giesen News

Mid Vintage Report 2021

The much-anticipated 2021 harvest is upon us and shaping up as another excellent vintage for New Zealand’s premier grape-growing regions.

With the added challenges of COVID-19 placed on the industry last year, our team have been working hard since vintage 2020 to ensure we have a strong team in place. Traditionally, Marlborough is a highly sought-after destination for winemakers and cellar hands wishing to experience Southern Hemisphere vintages which contributes to our staffing levelsInternational travel bans this year have meant this is not an option so we are particularly grateful to have many of our 2021 vintage team who have returned from previous vintages to help. 


The 2020 winter was unusually dry with less rainfall than the long-term average. The growing season started with several frost events affecting isolated areas around Marlborough. The all-important flowering period was greeted with a cold spell of weather, which had a significant effect on the regions fruit set.  Millerandage (commonly known as hen & chicken) is a common outcome of cool wet weather during flowering and produces a disproportionately high number of small berries in bunches. While this affects the yield, it can help promote concentration of aromas and flavours in the grapes. 

The summer ripening period was slightly cooler than normal, with rainfall only 38.9% of the long-term average. This allowed the winemaking team to pick grapes as they reached optimal ripeness, without any disease pressure. The region has experienced a few cooler evenings during the lead in to harvest, helping berries retain acidity and fresh, vibrant flavours. 

Giesen Group’s Chief Winemaker Duncan Shouler is excited about what he is seeing. Pinot Noir from the acclaimed Clayvin and Ridge Block vineyards has been hand-picked, sorted, and is currently undergoing cold soak. Duncan explains that the colour of the Pinot Noir fruit is dark and pronounced. With smaller crops, concentrated flavours are often prominent; this vintage is no different, with rich fruit flavours and ample fine ripe tannins shining through. The first parcels of Chardonnay have been picked at Clayvin. Chardonnay is one varietal that is particularly susceptible to ‘hen and chicken’; the upside is that these smaller berries are packed full of flavour. 

The next stage of harvest will see our Sauvignon Blanc blocks coming in. This is always fast and furious, especially with this vintage; we are seeing many of the blocks ripening beautifully. These will reach maturity over the following week. Ant Bell, Giesen Group Viticulturist, and his team are constantly in the vineyards sampling fruit with the winemakers, to ensure our grapes are picked at optimum ripeness. Early indications show the grapes are concentrated, with balanced ripe tropical fruit and herbal flavours. 

Hawke’s Bay

The Giesen Group sources premium Chardonnay and Merlot grapes from leading Hawkes Bay growers. Hawkes Bay has enjoyed similar growing season conditions to Marlborough, with dry winter conditions and a cooler-than-usual summer. Chardonnay has been harvested; because of the warm, dry weather, the fruit is exceptionally clean, showing the hallmark white fruit characteristics typical of Hawkes Bay Chardonnay. Our Merlot is in the final stages of ripening and will be picked over the following ten days. 


Many of our Riesling grapes come from this North Canterbury region. Located three hours south of Marlborough on the east coast, this area is renowned for its premium aromatic varietals. The 2020/21 growing season has been typical of this region – cool, dry climate with good sunshine. Settled weather throughout the final stages of this long growing season has promoted full varietal expressionin keeping with Waipara’s reputation for producing intense flavours, richness and complex fruit.