The 2015 vintage – by John Forrest

From Forrest Wines vintage hand - Nikki Jacoby from Laithwaites Wine in the UK

We'd already heard as early as Christmas, back in the UK, that New Zealand was having an unusually dry, hot summer. In Marlborough there had been no rain since the end of November. In February when I first passed through Marlborough wineries were a tad worried at the dry conditions and when I returned in March, there had still been no rain ... lovely concentrated grapes, but they were still riding the fine line when the vines just say that's enough, and go into shutdown mode.

Marlborough enjoyed weeks and weeks of glorious sunshine from the end of November through to 7th April

So as a result of a number of factors, 2015 harvest yields are way down. About 50% lower than in 2014, a very big year, and about 30% down on normal production levels. That's due to, firstly, rain at flowering time, then this hot, dry summer. An early vintage never came about as everyone was waiting for full phenolic ripeness.
Talking to John Forrest, he was saying the Pinot Noir looked as though it was fully mature, but tasting the berries the flavour simply wasn't there ... that was until just a few days before they finally harvested, then suddenly it seemed to click into place. The same for a good number of varieties – it's just getting everything in balance – flavour, with acidity, texture and sugar levels ... a tricky balancing act and Forrest is excited by what they see from 2015.

The ground is extremely parched, here in the high Brancott vineyard
John's highlights of 2015
I asked John what vats he was particularly excited about. Straight up he said "The Grüner Veltliner – I didn't need to know which tanks they were, as soon as I was near them in the winery I could pick up strong white pepper aromas"

Chardonnay has been good and is sitting happily in the new oak fuders that he is very excited about. Ultimately, John wants to use them for ageing the Riesling to give them texture, but no oak flavour, so he needs to 'break them in' with some other varieties first.

The Albariño was tasting phenomenal on the vine and he's hoping very much that that translates into great wine. His first year from these young vines, he's modelling the wine on Spain's Rias Baixas style and is very excited. They are planted on his best Brancott vineyard, so he has high hopes.

Chenin Blanc from the stony home vineyard and also from Brancott had lovely definition of bright, citrus notes and good acidity, and the Riesling –"all lemon curd and minerality" should be knockout, as long as the acidity is there, too.
Beth taking a moment with the beautiful new oak fuders from Germany – is it Gretl, Liesl, Hans Wolfgang or Arnie – each has a name!

Petit Manseng suffered a little powdery mildew late on, so John sent in the 'troops' to handpick the good bunches and sorted that problem out and it's showing some delicious, ripe tropical fruit. Pinot Noir has a lovely deep colour, hopefully the same on flavour. Arneis grapes didn't sing particularly tasted from the vine but today's sample was distinctly pear, apple and apricot.

Did I forget the Sauvignon? It's showing well, particularly the fruit from the very stony riverbed soils. Flavours went from strong citrus, elderflower and an almost salty minerality to an amazing exotic spice, just like Christmas. Wow!

Still, it's early days, with many wines not yet through ferment.

Lots of stalks and pips left over in the crates after the biggest day of grape receival in Forrest Wines' history – a massive 170 tonnes
And Tuesday 7th April, the winery received 170 tonnes of fruit in one day – that is a record, beating even 2014.
No wonder there were so many big crates of skins and stalks.

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