Six vintages of Grasshopper Rock

At Grasshopper Rock we produce one wine from the entire vineyard each year, a single vineyard wine. Each year the vines and grapes are shaped by the weather Mother Nature presents. Great sites, such as Grasshopper Rock, can consistently produce outstanding wine regardless of weather challenges.

Pinot noir develops black thin-skinned berries and small tight bunches.  It develops its greatest potential for complex aroma and flavours in cool, slow ripening climates. Grasshopper Rock is at the extreme end of cool climate. Our cool nights pull the average daily temperatures down to some of the lowest in Central Otago.

The aroma and flavours in the wine are the consequence of specific precursors in the grape being released during fermentation and aging. The precursors develop in the grape during ripening and the final balance in the grape comes about through the complex influence of the weather on the vineyard site. The weather influences the grapes from flowering and fruit set through to harvest. Every year the weather creates a sequence of slow, fast, slow, fast growth until the fruit are ready to pick. Timing of these periods relative to physiological development of the vine, flowers and grapes will influence precursor compounds. There are layers of complex interactions which are not fully understood.

To me there are two questions to think about when tasting these wines:

1. Is this an outstanding wine? ("Truly excellent wines which are fully representative of their region, variety, and maker; wines of pedigree, great balance, and harmony" Bob Campbell MW).

2. Is this wine a good example of Grasshopper Rock?

It is good to remember the vintage by the significant events in the year the grapes were growing. Obviously 2020 will be remembered for the challenges of harvesting during Covid-19 level 4 lockdown. We remember the vintage by what it means to us. Below are some ideas for these vintages.

2012 Grasshopper Rock

2012 vintage is strongly connected with the Christchurch earthquake (Feb 2011) and the recovery. It was a cooler vintage. In the winter of 2011 and it snowed in Auckland for the first time in 80 years. Mid summer was warmer than average but March-April were cooler and slower, leading to a later harvest  on 18 to 26 April.

“Elegant and concentrated Pinot Noir”
“Another consistently impressive release”
“Very fine-grained tannins, and excellent texture and harmony”

2013 Grasshopper Rock

2013 vintage is the year Mount Tongaririo erupted. (August 2012)  A cool start to the season again with our coolest November ever but things returned to normal and March was outstanding for ripening. Our largest harvest ever. Harvest 22 to 25 April. 

“There is ageing potential here, so it deserves time”
“Super reliable, super delicious”
“A wine to put in the cellar right now and enjoy the foresight you had to do this in 3 or 4 years time”

2014 Grasshopper Rock

2014 vintages marks the year New Zealand's population officially reached 4,500,000. Spring was warmer than average but after January it was cooler than average. Harvest 14 to 23 April.

“Wonderfully fine and elegant”
“It drinks well now and will age beautifully too”
“A lovely finish with a top note of tea leaf. Great potential”

2015 Grasshopper Rock

2015 vintage is one of the rare years when everything seem to go smoothly. We avoid Cyclone Pam which caused some devastation further north. 2015 was significant because it marked 40 years since the Rainbow Warrior was sunk by the French Secret Service in Waitemata Harbour. The season was rather benign with average temperatures throughout the season. Harvest 10 to 16 April.

“Elegant, supple wine with cellaring potential”
“Impeccably balanced, immensely enjoyable and distinctly moreish”
“As good as Grasshopper Rock always is. A remarkable consistency”
“An outstanding and age-worthy wine made from Grasshopper Rock”

2016 Grasshopper Rock

2016 vintage was the year of the New Zealand Flag referendum. Remember the short list of flags which made it in to the first referendum and the second referendum to prove the existing flag was better than the alternative. January was cooler than average but February and March were warmer than average for ripening fruit nicely. Harvest 12 to 18 April.

“An elegant wine that is a confident expression of place”
“Already delicious, it's also well worth cellaring”
“Youthful with great potential”
“Juicy and mouth-wateringly moreish on the palate”

2017 Grasshopper Rock

2017 is the Kaikoura earthquake vintage. On 14 November 2016, a M7.8 earthquake struck Kaikoura district and ruptured a world record 20 different faults. 2017 is very much a cooler vintage with small bunches and berries which ripened perfectly. Harvested 8 to 15 April.

“Silky on the palate, bursting with freshness”
“Impressive purity and length. Should age well”
“Silky mouthfeel, fresh vibrant style, excellent consistency every year”


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