Harvest 2015-Weeks 5&6: Recap

These past two weeks have been quite hot and dry for this area. Highs around 90 and very few cool nights. We just had rain over the weekend but I can’t speculate how much as of yet. Fall showed up yesterday bringing cloudy skies and blustery winds. The trees are starting to let the green fade away to be replaced by Crimson, orange and yellow.  The vinifera are ripening quickly spurred on by the heat. TAs are dropping more quickly than I remember as well. It makes me worried that the fruit that I thought would be ready in October will be ready while I am away in China. 

Speaking of China, I am supposed to leave this Thursday but am still waiting on flight confirmations. I have my visa now so if I can get flights I am set. 

This looks to be a great year for reds in the Finger Lakes. The Cabernet Franc we are picking for Constellation was one I was concerned about earlier in the year but after visiting the vineyard on Friday I am encouraged that I will be able to make some very nice wine. So much on the weather in the next 3-4 weeks as it always does this time of year. 

Cabernet Franc over Keuka on Friday. 

Meanwhile I am counting my blessings that we moved when we did. Napa and Lake counties are experiencing one of the worst fire seasons in recent memory. Thousands of people have been displaced by the Valley Fire and with 50,000 acres burned or burning as of last night it can only be described as devastating. I’m sure vineyards that I used to work with in the proximity of Middletown are probably gone. It is so sad and heartwrenching to see the photos. While Napa itself remains mostly unscathed, the smoke is hanging in the air which I know can be challenging for daily life, much less winemaking. My prayers go out to everyone affected and the Firefighters that are courageously  trying contain this monster fire. 

But Why is the Wine Gone? – Part II: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Philip Gregan says a bumper harvest could lead to a glut of wine. Photo / Richard RobinsonSeveral weeks ago I covered the potential shortage of Prosecco in But Why is the Wine Gone Part I.  This week I wanted to uncover another potential shortage on the other side of the wine world. This shortage was publicized also by the Drinks Business back in June and I quickly caught up with Phillip Gregan, Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Winegrowers association (NZWG).  After the overstated shortage of Prosecco, I wanted to find out what was driving this rumored shortage and how impactful it would be on the supply of New Zealand’s signature Sauvignon Blanc.

“Volume is Much Smaller than in 2014”

Apparently this one is real.  It is mainly caused by a perfect storm of market phenomena: short supply and high demand.  According to Gregan “demand has been rising for 25 years and the 2015 vintage was much smaller than 2014.”  Their demand numbers are based on export volume which is growing at about 7% per year in a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) and export value growing at 6% per year CAGR .

It is possible that demand will eventually outpace the available land in New Zealand. There have already been rumblings that Marlborough is almost planted out on all available land.  One wonders if the NZWG could capitalize on other regions which could grow Sauv Blanc that are less well known around the world outside of Marlborough.  Gregan stated “Yes! Without a doubt, but those other regions have yet to build the reputation that Marlborough has [and] that takes time of course.” Some of these include Nelson, Waipara, Martinborough, Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay.

The Swinging Pendulum

Of course many in the industry know that oversupply and undersupply is a constantly swinging pendulum and can change in the span of one vintage to another.  Even as recent as mid-2014 there were concerns of oversupply in New Zealand after two large crops of 2013 and 2014.  There was an oversupply and dropping grape and land prices back in 2008.  Even though there is a shortage now, I wanted to know if the NZWG were doing anything to mitigate an oversupply risk for the future.  Philisophically, Gregan points out “There will always be a year to year risk around over-supply/shortage that is the nature of an agriculturally based industry.  What [the NZWG] do is provide as much information to the industry as possible about supply, demand, prices etc to enable wineries and growers to plan for the future.”

“North America will be the major driver of growth over the next five years.”

Speaking of the future, there is always a concern about will demand continue at the current pace and where the NZWG feel their market is moving.  What markets are their focus right now?  “North America will be the major driver of growth over the next five years. Beyond that we expect China to be increasingly important. They are both very big markets in which current NZ wine penetration is relatively low, so there is a lot of upside” states Gregan.

Phillip Gregan Photo / Richard Robinson

New Zealand Landscape photo from Saint Clair Family Estate Wines




Harvest 2015: Week 4 – It’s Here!!!


Harvest is officially upon us here in Canandaigua. This morning we started harvesting fruit for Constellation’s Sparkling wine program for J. Roget. 

Last week was relatively cool with lows at night in the 50s and highs in the mid 70s. This week it is supposed to be much warmer with highs up near 90! That would get things moving quite a bit on the vinifera varieties and I’m a little concerned that Riesling may be coming in earlier than expected if it keeps up. After the huge amount of rain from earlier in the season the later part of the year has been relatively dry and warm. It is often said in cooler climates that the weather in September can make or break the quality of a harvest. We shall see what the next four weeks have in store for us!  

I hope to get out in the vineyards a bit later this week to see how the vintage is progressing. Hopefully we are seeing signs of Verasion in Cabernet Franc soon and the Riesling should be about a month away from harvest at this point.