Every year, as we come up to “harvest” time, we all have mixed feelings. Harvest is the culmination of the year’s work, it’s what we have looked forward to all year. As the time comes, it’s both exciting and a little tense, we hope we have done all necessary work to set up the vines in the best position for a good vintage 2022. We also look up at the sky and hope for the best as far as the weather is concerned. It never fails to surprise how vignerons around the world feel the same about the run up to harvest, it is the same heady mixture of anticipation, excitement about the vintage and stress about the weather, in Burgundy, as in Central Otago. It is all wait and watch now! All the work of the whole year depends on the next few weeks.
In the meantime, we continue to welcome guests to our cellar door. What we love is that when they come to our cellar door, they always have a healthy appetite for knowledge. We have some of our grapes on display at the cellar door to encourage conversation around vèraison – where grapes begin changing colour and the ripening process is advancing, with the increasing of sugar levels and decreasing of acidic levels. In the run up to harvest, Dean Shaw, our winemaker, is continually measuring the three factors of sugar, acid, and pH. Harvest has to wait until we get the go ahead from Dean, when optimum levels for these three factors are achieved, and the grapes are ready to be picked and made into wine.
Interestingly, people are often surprised how small the Pinot Noir grapes are, when compared with table grapes, and as always questions are raised around organics and quality vs quantity.
Organics, contrary to belief, does not necessarily mean lower yields, according to Simon, our viticulturist. Domaine Thomson is sitting at crop levels consistent with conventionally managed vineyards. Simon thinks the discussion of quality vs quantity is all subjective, and that it really comes down to a vine-by-vine scale. In viticulture, we assess the vines’ canopy growth, colour, water use, soils, age, and location within the block when making crop loading decisions. Heavier soils at the north end of the vineyard, under the shelter belt, can hold more fruit per vine versus the bony and sun-drenched slopes which can hold a bit less. It’s an evolving target between seasons.
When asked if he had any predictions about the wine which will be made from this crop, Simon said: “It’s really hard to say but everything we create here at Domaine Thomson is world class!” Let’s drink to that!