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New Zealand hails ‘vintage of a lifetime’

With New Zealand’s 2013 grape harvest now well advanced, many producers are speaking about one of the best vintages in the country’s history.

The 2013 harvest underway at Esk Valley

While the warm, dry summer has caused problems for the country’s sheep farmers, New Zealand Winegrowers’ CEO Philip Gregan described conditions as “absolutely perfect for growing and ripening grapes.”

With NZWG having shaken off earlier concerns about a potential grape glut, Gregan continued: “As we move into autumn, still with warm days and now slightly cooler nights prevailing, the prospect is for an outstanding vintage in all our grape growing regions.”

This optimism is being echoed by an increasing number of winemakers. Predicting that 2013 looks set to be remembered as the “vintage of a lifetime,” Esk Valley winemaker Gordon Russell pointed to an ideal combination of weather conditions.

“Not only are our grapes ripening perfectly under constantly blue skies, but cooler nights are helping retain acidity and ultimately enrich the wines with a vitality not normally seen in drought seasons,” he reported.

Craggy Range chief winemaker Matt Stafford offered a similarly positive outlook, saying: “Best? Greatest? It is difficult to put a statement on the quality we have in the vineyards with many weather fronts still to pass but there is a great sense of excitement of what is in store and we may need to come up with some new superlatives following this one.”

These upbeat predictions for 2013 came as wine writers Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer unveiled their sixth edition of The Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification.

Featuring “a record number” of 120 estates from among the country’s 484 Pinot Noir producers, the classification includes 23 estates for the first time, with Rippon Vineyard joining Ata Rangi, Bell Hill, Felton Road and Mount Difficulty in the highest five star classification.

“We have never witnessed a jump in the standard of New Zealand Pinot Noir across all price points as dramatic as that of the past 12 months,” remarked Jukes and Stelzer, who base the annual classification on an average assessment of producers’ previous five vintages.

Attributing this in part to maturing vines, they added: “growers and makers are embracing a new sensitivity in drawing out the unique personality of their region. New Zealand Pinot Noir has never spoken more articulately of the character of its place.”

For more on New Zealand, look out for April’s issue of the drinks business.

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