Valli - In our own words.

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It is October: pruning has just finished and we begin to think of the upcoming harvest, 2021. Will we glide through spring frost-free? Will we have settled weather over flowering giving us the desired quantity of fruit? Will the summer be warm and autumn dry giving us the desired quality of fruit?

At the same time the mind looks forward, it can’t help but look back at the last vintage as a reference. So, the other question is: Will we have to harvest again under government restrictions around a virus?

A look at the 2020 Growing Season and Grape Harvest

2020 will be one of those more easily remembered vintages, not just because of the nervousness surrounding Covid-19 but also because of the nervousness over summer. The growing season was cooler than average in Otago and by late March we were wondering if our fruit would ever reach desired ripeness levels before the season ended.

Then came April and May. It would be impossible to dream of a better autumn for...

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2020: The Covid Harvest, in the words of our winemakers.

Jen Parr, Valli Winemaker

I understand the world will regard this vintage as the “Covid Harvest,” and it will be remembered for the global pandemic that enveloped us as we were about to hit “go” with picking grapes here in Central Otago.

The day before the first fruit descended upon the Valli winery, I responded to a query from the New Zealand Editor for the American Publication Wine Spectator with these sentiments: “Our minds are on things other than grapes as we commence harvest. Our minds are on our families, many of whom live regions, if not oceans away. They are on each other and keeping each other safe. Now more than ever, we must have a bond of trust. No hugs or handshakes but a solidarity that is bound by the love we have for our profession."

"Our hearts are with our nation as we unite in an unprecedented way. We think about the world, the planet, about people we have never thought about before, feeling a connection to them. I approach this harvest...

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2020 aka The Covid Vintage.

As good as the wines from 2020 are, the vintage will probably be remembered more for Covid-19 as much for wine quality.

We had a couple of very, very nervous days at the beginning, unsure if harvest was even going to go ahead. Vintage is stressful enough in its own right, we definitely didn’t need that. To have spent the whole year - all your effort, energy and money - riding the emotional rollercoaster of the weather that every farmer rides, only to be told at the last moment it was all in vain would have been truly heartbreaking.

Fortunately, the wine industry was deemed an essential service, and rightly so: the New Zealand wine industry brings in close to $2 billion in export income per year. As a small island nation normally reliant on tourism to maintain a robust economy, we will need that money now more than ever.

We were able to continue, albeit under extremely strict protocols. Everyone in the industry took the responsibility seriously. I guess the proof is in the fact that were...

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Grape Harvest in the Waitaki Valley

Q. Where do you get your picking crews from?

A. It is a trade secret! Unsuspecting, well-intentioned victims!

On picking days we take on whoever is willing to give up a warm sunny autumn day and break their back with manual labor, all for a higher cause. Grant’s first Valli vintages were made up of mostly family and a few close friends, many who have smartened up and have not set foot on the vineyard again. We still have family come from near and far: from the Catlins to Hong Kong. Friends come from Christchurch, Napier, Auckland, Invercargill and even Australia just to pick grapes! The hefty makeup of the crew comes from the best and brightest of the hospitality industry in Queenstown and surrounds. This sort can work hard, play hard and are always looking to expand their knowledge of wine, vintage and vineyard. Picking days are perfect for that!

Q. Why do you organise picking yourselves and not just hire a contract crew, which would certainly be easier?

A. If we did that, I would be out of a job!...

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We spend so much time thinking about our wines that they almost feel like part of the family. Although our family isn’t quite this famous, I use analogies of universal figures in history to describe our wines. If we threw up a photo of Aunty Alice the majority of you wouldn't know what we were talking about.

Our Gibbston Vineyard Pinot Noir is like Audrey Hepburn – timeless, complex, generous and full of grace.

Theatre, film, musicals, fashion - Audrey was a master of the arts and was admired by all who knew her. However she was also innately shy, suffered from depression since childhood, and longed for the simple domestic life which was at odds with her fame. She loved animals and believed laughter could cure a multitude of ills, and above all and she was known to have an incredible desire to love and a passionate need to give it.

She spent the last chapter of her life as a special Ambassador for UNICEF, helping children that suffered from hunger and the...

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The time has come to release the 2018 Valli Pinot Noirs. The first question always asked about now is: “What was the vintage like?" Well, the 2018 vintage is best summed up by the graph included here. The graph shows growing degree days from the last five vintages as compared with the the longterm average (depicted by the grey dashed line). Growing degree days (or GDD) calculate the amount of warmth available for plant growth during a given growing season. GDD counts the total number of degrees each day above a base temperature. Temperatures below the base temperature would be too cold for growth and the plant would remain dormant until the temperature increased.

Looking at the graph, it is easy to see that 2018 was considerably warmer than average, or even the next-warmest vintage, being 2016. It was the warmest vintage I have seen in 25 vintages of winemaking in Central Otago. The vines loved it almost as much as the winemakers. Across all regions we produced fully ripe grapes and with healthy crop levels of between 5-6 tonnes per hectare (2-2.4 tonnes per acre), even...

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Our Collaboration with Burn Cottage Vineyard: How a penchant for pioneering led to two limited-edition Pinot Noirs.

As we release our fifth collaboration wine with Burn Cottage Vineyard, I'd like to share with you how "The Great Grape Swap" came to be. Burn Cottage Winemaker Claire Mulholland and I made wine together at Gibbston Valley Wines through the late '90s, where we not only made wines for Gibbston Valley with grapes grown around the winery, but also for a number of the region's new wineries just starting up with grapes from their vineyards spread all across Central Otago.

Discovering the Central Otago subregions & characteristics

We were the first to see wines from these new sites within new subregions and I don’t think you necessarily have to be a winemaker to understand how much pleasure we got from being the very first people ever to see how these various places expressed themselves through Pinot Noir. The idea that Central Otago is a number of different subregions...

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