Three words can describe our spring weather – cool, dry, windy. The season started with a normal budburst in the second week of September. Early season growth was slow and the shoots got knocked around by very strong and persistent westerly winds. On 5 October the middle part of the country got hit by a big frost. At Gladstone Vineyard we suffered some damage to shoot tips at the edges of our blocks where the wind machines couldn't quite keep the frost at bay. While the damage slowed shoot development, crop losses were minimal.
The cool weather continued through flowering in early December resulting in less flowers setting fruit. This means fewer berries per bunch and therefore a lighter crop. With less than half the average rainfall we experienced from October onwards, our soils were becoming very dry. Dry soils are one of the factors that result in small berries. Small berries have a higher skin to pulp ratio so they produce better colour and more concentrated flavours and sugar.
In the third week of December, Mother Nature decided she would turn the summer switch on. From that point on we had day after day of scorching heat which is exactly what our vines required.
Half our vineyards are dry farmed (no irrigation) and although our soils were in a major water deficit during the Januaru to March period, our vines remained happy and healthy. We use a range of techniques to help the vines get through stress periods and persuade them to push their root systems deep into the sub-soils. In a year with a number of stress events it was really nice to see that what we are doing is working. Additionally, our Home and Carters blocks are now into their third and final year of organic conversion (they will be certified organic for vintage 2016). It was great to see these organic blocks pull through the season looking balanced and healthy.
The fantastic summer sped up phonological development and made for a very condensed harvest. Vintage started with Sauvignon Blanc on 28 March and finished on 15 April – 17 days which is our quickest vintage to date! With the ideal weather, we consistently harvested clean ripe fruit.
The early and compact season allowed us to capture fresh acidity which is integral to producing wines with finesse and longevity, and is something we celebrate in our cool climate winemaking. The higher natural acids we preserved in the young 2015 wines will give balanced focus to both our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris batches in the future, as well as an important longevity and structure to our Pinot noir.
The Sauvignon Blanc is showing both ripe tropical and floral notes, as well as some citrusy freshness, with soft fruit on the palate enveloping a linear acid backbone. Pinot Gris batches are showing concentrated pear and quince, as well as early signs of nutty spice and textural complexity, which will continue to develop as the wine sits on lees over the winter.
The Pinot Noir harvest was one of the most compact ever seen here a Gladstone Vineyard, with all of the fruit harvested in just over a week (31 March to 7 April). The small berries and low crops gave us wines with real concentration, juicy fruit, ripe and robust tannins, and deep colour. Given the fruit concentration we were seeing at harvest, we managed our Pinot Noir fermentations with an emphasis on gentle extraction to ensure we crafted Pinots with both concentration and elegance. A small amount of whole bunch was used in batches from the hillside of our Dakins Road block which showed ripe flavours (yes we chew on the stems to determine whether to incorporate some whole bunch or destem completely!).
The high fruit quality across all varieties at harvest has translated to wines with exceptional potential in the winery. 2015 will be a vintage to remember!
Christine Kernohan, Managing Director/Chief Winemaker
Kyle Mason, Viticulturalist
Alexis Moore, Winemaker