It is often correctly said that great wine is produced in the vineyard – all the winemaker has to do is capture what is already there and put it into a bottle. This is never truer than with Pinot noir.
Our overall philosophy has always been to capture the very best that the Central Otago terroir can offer. Quality drives every decision we make; cost is a secondary consideration, regardless of how much that can hurt! Accordingly, we eschew mechanical aids in the vineyard. Almost everything is done by hand, allowing decisions to be made on a vine by vine basis for the best health of the vine, and the best development of the few selected bunches allowed to ripen.
Everything we do in the vineyard meets the criteria of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.
Our viticulturist is James Dicey from Grape Vision http://www.grapevision.co.nz
It all starts at pruning where decisions made can affect the harvest for up to two years ahead. All our vines are spur pruned (as opposed to cane pruned). Once new growth begins in October we protect against powdery mildew using simple elemental (and totally natural) sulphur spray. Blessed with our dry climate, that is usually the extent of our spraying regime, as other diseases endemic in less favoured regions are simply not a problem for us. Amongst other things, this means that we can mulch our prunings and put their organic content slowly back into the soil. (In disease ridden France, for instance, all prunings must, by law, be burned.)
Throughout the growing season we take special care to ensure light and warmth reach the developing bunches by leaf plucking. This is labour intensive but necessary when striving for perfection. We also bunch thin to encourage maximum flavour development in the surviving bunches. Our aim, like other Central Otago Pinot noir growers, is to end up with around 6 tonnes of grapes per hectare – well below the NZ average crop size.
At harvest, all picking is done by hand. This way leaf contamination is practically nil, and deformed or inferior bunches are dropped on the ground. No machine can do that!