2008 VINTAGE REPORT
Bud burst was very even with good shoot growth. While we had a couple of frost events they
were mostly in the inconvenience category. It is inconvenience getting up in the early
hours of the morning frost fighting, and when you are finished it is time to start work
for the day.
If we have 2 nights in a row it gets fairly difficult to keep your eyes open, remain
productive and cheerful
We had a good flowering due to the warm temperatures in December and a timely rain.
Despite the rain in December it was very dry and we were monitoring our irrigation
The vineyard was in good shape with the vines growing a very healthy canopy. In fact I
have never seen such a healthy canopy, which was due in part to our irrigation regime of
ensuring the vines are well watered ahead of any possible summer drought.
It was very dry with only 8 mm of rain falling in November but we did get a good rain in
December. However rain in summer in Marlborough hardly makes any impression on the soil
moisture unless it is followed up with subsequent rainfalls. This didn’t happen as the
total rainfall for January and February was half that of the long-term average.
This isn’t a problem for us as we have an efficient irrigation system and carefully
monitor the vines’ water requirements.
All the varieties developed fantastic fruit flavours from véraison and were in a very
clean condition when we had a good rain event in March. This rainfall boosted berry
weights and led us to revisit our crop estimates. This is important as the winery is only
able to take so much fruit and we were already close to the maximum prior to the rain.
At our first round of ripeness testing, where we cut off bunches and test them for their
sugar content (brix test) and acidity levels, we also weighed each bunch and calculated an
average for each variety. We then compared these weights to a graph of bunch weights from
trial work (trial by Dr Mike Trought) which can be used to estimate a harvest bunch weight
and therefore vineyard yield.
The result looked as though it would be fairly tight getting everything into the winery,
but as it turned out we had a little up our sleeve in the end.
We started hand picking Pinot Noir on March 26th and had all the Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris
and Chardonnay picked by April 4th.
The Pinot Noir went through ferment well and we left it on skins for a little longer than
normal, checking it each day. When we thought we had a good balance we pressed it off to
barrel. This wine will be bottled in February for release in April.
23% of the Pinot Gris is being fermented in French Barriques with the reminder in
stainless steel. All went through as expected with some real intensity developing.
The Pinot Gris is a dry but rich style with complex characters.
The Chardonnay was hand harvested and whole bunch pressed and then went directly into
French Barriques for fermentation. The wine has already developed some great depth. This
wine will be bottled early in 2009 ready for release in March.
We started hand picking the Sauvignon Blanc on April 4th. Some of the hand harvested
Sauvignon Blanc will go into our barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc “Hugo” which has been
very well received, with the 2007 “Hugo” selling out on release. I am very excited about
this wine as it shows great intensity and depth. The remaining barrel fermented fruit will
go into the main blend to add texture to the wine.
We picked the Sauvignon in 7 different lots with them all being fermented separately. A
variety of different yeasts were used including wild yeast for the barrel portion.
The main Sauvignon Blanc will be released in August and the terroir will again deliver the
elegance and texture that Fairhall Downs is known for.
In summary while the vintage was difficult for some our emphasis on low yields and good
viticulture has really shone through this vintage. While some struggled with botrytis due
to the rain in March and April we harvested very clean fruit with flavours at least the
equal of any previous vintage. I’m sure when you try the Fairhall Downs 2008 vintage wines
you will agree.
Our conversion to Organics is working very well and I was surprised at how clean the fruit
was in this area. We have made our first compost heap using grape marc and grape vine
pruning’s in equal portions. Grape marc is the grape skins that are left after the grapes
have been pressed and the juice extracted.
The marc and shredded pruning’s a laid out in two long piles and mixed by a hydraulic
digger. We then spray EM onto the pile roll it down and cover the pile. EM is short for
Effective Microorganisms and is a group of naturally occurring microorganisms that are
used in house hold bokashi.
The compost will be spread out under the grape rows and will increase the organic matter
in the soil and also lower irrigation requirements.
Stuart T Smith
Fairhall Downs Estate Wines