Vintage Report 2016
a challenging season producing fruit with both intensity & balance
El Nino effects were in full swing in 2016. The dry conditions continued and come mid December things started looking very worrying as we were running at less than 60% of our normal rainfall. Thankfully we had the foresight to change our vineyard management by cultivating every alternate row in the vineyard. This reduced both the competition for water and the evaporation from the soil – critical in preparing our vines for the looming drought.
Spring frosts are not unusual for Marlborough but the unique aspect and altitude of Churton’s vineyard has always seen us protected in the past. Late in the season, a very cold southerly come through the valley on the evening of 16 November and we awoke to significant frost damage. We estimated that 10% of our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir was affected. However, this was followed by a very successful flowering beginning with Pinot Noir on 1st December and, nearly two weeks early, Sauvignon Blanc on the 7th. This led to very even fruit set with great bunches. January brought an end to the drought with two healthy rainfalls; it was a huge relief but with many things in agriculture it was a double edged sword. The sudden flush of growth in the vines also occurred in the berries, resulting in larger berries than normal. Potential yields looked astonishing so we implemented a strict green harvest, adjusting crops to our desired level.
Harvest started with Pinot Noir on 22nd March but was interrupted by rain on the 24th. We resumed picking again on the 30th including a severe selection both in the vineyard and again at the winery. Brix averaged 23 and the average yield was 5.3 T/ha (37hl/ha). We had one early pick of Sauvignon Blanc on 1st April but the bulk was harvested from 9th to 16th April, a week later than usual. Quality of fruit was very good, albeit with larger berries than normal, and the average yield was 8.2 T/ha (57hl/ha). In superb condition, our Viognier was picked on 14 April and we were particularly rewarded by our Petit Manseng which performed its best ever. We picked nearly 2.5 tonne on the 29th April at 28 brix with a slightly lower acidity than usual of 11.7g/l.