Our aim is to have all vineyards operating under Sustainable Winegrowing NZ (SWNZ) by 2012 where growers and vineyard managers responsible for supplying fruit to Kim Crawford Wines, undergo professional training to ensure they are complying with the aims and principles of SWNZ. The underlying aim is for ecologically balanced vineyards that deliver the desired fruit quality.
There are a few key areas of viticulture that Kim Crawford Wines focus on to ensure excellence. We believe the moment the grape is picked, it captures everything that has happened before that moment. Our job is to act as the guardians of the flavour and the vineyard. Our philosophy is to tinker as little as possible in the winery, to allow the flavours to flow through and express their moment in time.
We let the region and climate determine where the best fruit comes from, we recognise that sub-regional differences impact on the final blends which is why we have a number of vineyards across each region to ensure we have the ability to select fruit from various locations.
Our viticulturists work closely with growers and vineyard managers to manage canopies to ensure they are in condition to deliver the desired fruit quality. The canopies are the engines of the vines and are in charge of ripening the fruit making it important they are functional through till harvest. There is a fine line in managing stem levels of the vine to ensure optimum output. Our wines are made from vines that incur only light stress to ensure the fruit is delivered to the winery fresh and vibrant.
The levels of leaf plucking are monitored each season and by site. Experience has shown over exposing fruit changes the wine quality and flavours. Our aim is to ensure the optimum balance with the leaves on vine – enough leaves are removed to allow air and speckled light to pass through the canopies and to reduce disease risk, whilst ensuring there is enough shading to manage the phenolic levels in the juice.
Vine health is as much about vine balance as it is in the type and amount of inputs back into the vineyards. We have a history of cropping levels in most areas and have developed an understanding of what the potential should be at each site each year. As part of SWNZ, growers are tasked with maintaining and/or improving the structure, depth, fertility, fauna and micro-flora of the soil. Plant and soil analysis are carried out on a regular basis to determine nutrient & fertilizer requirements, timing and method of application to minimize leaching.
A combination of winemakers and viticulturists monitor the vineyards throughout the season, checking vine development to get an understanding of the potential at harvest. Closer to harvest, picking decisions are made not just from berry sample analysis but from tasting the fruit in the field. The aim is to harvest the vineyard at its optimum flavour potential, not basing it just on sugar ripeness. This means regularly checking sites, up to three to four times a week, just to get it right, a logistical challenge, but a challenge that we feel is imperative to ensuring excellent fruit quality.
Where possible individual parcels of fruit with potential are kept separate once harvested to allow the winemakers to follow their development through the wine making process. We believe the wine was made in the vineyard, by keeping parcels separate we allow the site to express the individual qualities that are there rather than trying to create something through the winemaking process.