Spring Release 19981998
A cool to average spring was followed by the El Nino-dominated weather pattern. Persistent high winds did not abate till late February, and these, combined with high temperatures and extraordinarily dry conditions from November right through to harvest, meant most of our vines, which are unirrigated, struggled to ripen their fruit. The rising temperatures through November/December ensured a good flowering and fruit set, but by harvest it was clear that the berries would be about half their normal size. Our potentially abundant season had been limited to yet another low production year, with most varieties producing 2 T/acre or less and even lower potential juice yields because of the small berry sizes.
Ripening periods throughout Martinborough varied widely, with the same varieties being picked up to a month apart in different vineyards. Major factors in these variations appear to have been irrigation and the effectiveness of shelter. The different ripening periods, picking times, berry sizes and juice yields will add variety to the styles of wine emerging from Martinborough in a year the text books tell us should be capable of producing very fine wines.
- Chardonnay 1997
1997 was a cool, low cropping year which in general favoured strong varietal flavours, and intensity and elegance in most wines. Our Chardonnay was cropped at less than 2T/acre and does show these attributes. It was 100% barrel fermented, with approximately 25% new oak and an extended barrel maturation for optimising integration and complexity.
It is straw-coloured with hints of green, and has a powerful, complex nose displaying grapefruit and biscuity characters which are well supported by subtle French oak. The palate is big and complex, and it has a crisp, focused but textural palate showing firm, clearly varietal fruit, as on the nose, with a lingering aftertaste. This is a powerful wine, which we believe has considerable potential for development. The wine is not as forward as in some vintages and our usual recommendation is particularly applicable: drinking it at 4-7 years old should show considerable benefits from good cellaring conditions.
- Pinot Noir 1997
However much I (the winemaker) might study, dissect and philosophise about red Burgundy wines, in the final analysis the French have the goal of making great Burgundian Pinot noir, and Dry River pursues the goal of great Martinborough Pinot noir. They are different, and each encapsulates the virtues of its own terroir. What ensures their shared capacity for greatness is the common grape variety, Pinot noir, and the passion of its makers. What ensures the differences between them was created millennia before human cultivation of either region.
This winery continues to focus on what it considers to be key ingredients of great (rather than good) wine - concentration and longevity to enable the delivery of developed complexity. With this in mind, our style pursues concentration without loss of elegance and a firm structure derived from fruit tannins to sustain the wine over a number of years of cellaring. These goals require optimum physiological ripeness, which can be achieved only with great effort and attention to detail in the vineyard. If a comparison was to be made with Burgundy, the concentration and power of our latest vintages are within the range of the bigger-style Burgundies, and with the 1997 vintage comparison could be made with Vosne-Romanèe. But the particular qualities of Martinborough fruit will still make their own statement.
The 97 Pinot noir has the intense colour of our recent Pinots. It has soft, sweet and complex aromas, with hints of nuts and a subtle sappiness from the whole bunch ferment. The flavours are intense but lithe and complex. They are of ripe plums and boysenberries, with a firm underlay of soft-textured fruit tannins to provide good development and tautness of flavour for continuing elegance. These wines are attractive both young, for their exuberance of fruit, and as older wines (up to about 8 years) for their developed flavours. To avoid the youthful tannins dominating the fruit, this should not be drunk too cool as a young wine (try at about 17°C). However, do remember that successful maturation is very dependent on good cellaring conditions (see pamphlet). Magnums are also available.
- Sauvignon Blanc 1998
Our Sauvignon grapes ripened considerably earlier in the season than usual, probably because of the relatively small crop. In a hot year such as 1998 there is a danger that the fruit characters might lose their liveliness, so we picked part of this crop early - at about 20 brix to retain fresh, crisp flavours in the final wine. The remainder of the grapes were allowed to ripen further to contribute fullness and riper flavours in the final blend.
The final wine is light gold in colour with a ripe nose evoking flowers, dried grass and even spices, with Granny Smith apples. The palate is quite full but balanced, with typical nettle and crisp Granny Smith flavours. The wine shows good concentration, and though it is well suited as a food wine now, it will gain further interest if cellared over a number of years. If you have not tried already, our Sauvignons do have considerable longevity, and it is worth experimenting by cellaring them for some time to see whether you like this aged version.
- Martinborough Riesling 1998
The majority of the fruit for this wine was picked in the first week of May, and includes fruit from both our Craighall vineyard and the Canning vineyard which is directly behind our winery. The grapes were left on the vine until after sugars had ceased to accumulate, so that the flavours had reached optimum physiological ripeness.
The final wine is light gold with clear tints of green. Its nose is forward, smelling of citrus blossom, cinnamon spice and zest. The palate is medium, flavourful, but not overtly sweet, with a crisp acid followed by the taste of apples, limes and a long lingering aftertaste. Classic New Zealand Riesling flavours abound. This is a refreshing 'drink now' wine for the summer, but it has potential for development up to 6-8 years.
- Craighall Botrytis Selection Riesling 1997
The grapes for this wine were selectively picked late in April at an average of 28 brix to produce a wine similar to a German auslese. Some of this fruit showed intense botrytis shrivelling, but the late development of all the botrytis contributed to preserving the purity and clarity of varietal flavours. The juice from these grapes was fermented to approximately 90 g/L residual sugar, although the impression given on tasting is probably more luscious than this.
The colour is pure gold; the nose is honeyed, smelling of blossom, dried apricots and cloves, with clear, pure botrytis notes. The palate has long fine acids - fresh but balanced - with a luscious mid-palate of peaches, apricots and floral notes to make a clear varietal statement of considerable concentration. Enjoy it with a chilled peach or by itself. I expect this wine to be long lived. It is available in 750mL bottles (as well as halves) which are particularly suited to longer-term cellaring.
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- 1995 Autumn Spring