Hail and Snow in January! A Challenging Season for Grapes

Fancy having snow on the Nelson ranges in late January! It really sums up the challenges of this year’s season — low temperatures, frost and hail in summer are not at all friendly to growing grapes. 

nelson snow during january

Fortunately, only one of our growers suffered significant losses due to the recent hail storms — most have survived the unseasonal winter blasts without too much damage. Our hearts go out to the Motueka farmers who saw such widespread devastation to their crops. It certainly was terrible timing, especially for the stone fruit growers.

Like the kayakers, picnickers and campers, we are very much hoping that summer will finally settle in. Grapes need warm, dry weather, with nice cool evenings to moderate ripening and increase flavour intensity. Here’s hoping that February and March will deliver some sustained hot weather before we head into autumn. 

Along with hoping and praying for favourable weather, our growers are keeping very busy. At this time of the year they are occupied with leaf plucking and fruit trimming. The grapes are starting to swell, plumping up beautifully and nestling against each other. We call this bunch closure. At this point growers must be particularly alert to signs of disease. They also need to make the tricky decision of how much fruit to trim. Knowing how to strike just the right balance between quality and yield is quite an artform. 

picking pinot noir grapes

While we eagerly await the 2021 vintage and all its possibilities, we are excited by the response to our 2020 wines — especially our Estate Reserve Range. Released at the end of last year, these wines are ‘on premise only,’ meaning that they are exclusive to a select number of restaurants and cafes. Designed to be enjoyed young, and specifically for the hospitality trade, our Estate Reserve Range is receiving great compliments from chefs and restaurant managers. 

These are a few of great restaurants where you can try these wines by the glass: The Boathouse and Harry’s Hawker House in Nelson; Town Tonic in Christchurch; and, if you’re lucky enough to get to Queenstown, Farelli Trattoria. We are particularly proud of our Pinot Noir Rose, which is proving a great hit with diners. 

If you can’t get along to any of these venues, don’t worry. You won’t miss out, because these lovely fresh wines are exclusively available in our online store

At Kahurangi we love our Pinot Noir, it is a wine that continues to challenge and enthral us as we seek to improve on every vintage. Pinot Noir is a beautiful grape and we really enjoy the challenge of producing these elegant wines.

Last week David braved the wintry conditions to attend the Southern Pinot Noir Workshop in Hanmer. While it didn’t quite snow, it did get down to 2°C going over the Lewis Pass. 

The event has been held for 30 years and is a great opportunity to showcase Kahurangi wines, as well as learn from experts on viticulture and winemaking. The attendees taste and evaluate hundreds of bottles of Pinot Noir and share their knowledge and expertise. 

pinot noir clink

Although that might sound like a dream job to many of us, it is actually quite a marathon. Tastings start at 8.30 am and go through to 6.00 pm over three and a half days. This year more than a hundred wines were tasted, evaluated and discussed. The long days at this event are incredibly worthwhile though.

As David says “the knowledge you get from sitting in a room full of some of New Zealand’s most talented Pinot Noir winemakers is immeasurable.” David has come away with plenty of ideas about how to make Kahurangi Pinot Noir even better, so watch this space!

Winemaking is a fascinating and rewarding journey. Every year brings new excitement and new challenges. You never quite know what you’re going to get. Making the best of every season is what it’s all about. And that’s what makes it such fun.

Are you 18 or older? This website requires you to be 18 years of age or older. Please verify your age to view the content, or click "Exit" to leave.