Every vintage is the story of a great coming together. As the grapes reach the peak of their condition, everyone in the vineyards and in the winery work together to get the best quality fruit into the glass.

Vintage 2022 Harvest was no exception, with everyone from hand harvesters, to harvester drivers, truck drivers and cellar hands, coming together to guarantee their smooth delivery into the winery; even down to micro-managing the quantity of grapes going into each truck.

“They say good wine is made in the vineyard, but all the hard work during the summer can be quickly undone if we don’t pick the grapes at the best time” says Marlborough Viticulture Manager David Bullivant.

The weather over the harvest period had our vineyard staff on their toes as there were some periods of rain that forced our harvesters into hibernation. Water on the fruit dilutes the fruit going into the winery. So when the weather was on our side and the grapes at optimal ripeness, our team jumped to action, working tirelessly to harvest the grapes and get them to the winery.

With the Babich Wines team yet again working seamlessly together, wine lovers have a lot to look forward to, with our Viticulturalists in both Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay predicting there to be some fantastic wine to come from this vintage.

“I think there will be some very good and interesting wines to come out of this harvest. The growing degree days were up and I tasted some very good flavours in the vineyard,” says Hawke’s Bay Viticulturist Tony Smith.

And now that the Harvest is done, and the reins are handed over to our winemakers to work their magic, our hard-working vineyard teams can enjoy a break, before reflecting on what they can improve on even further, next year.

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Vintage 2022 officially kicked off at Babich Wines this month, with harvest starting across all our estate-owned vineyards. Our team have been relentlessly working towards this exciting moment for the past 6 months and eagerly got stuck in.

Chardonnay & Pinot Noir are the first grapes to start coming off the vines, as the teams in Henderson, Hawke’s Bay & Marlborough carefully hand-pick whilst enjoying the fresh air and rural settings. There are a few early morning starts for some, who are up before the sun, however, the beautiful sunrises sure make it worthwhile. Others battle on in the heat of the day (26+°C at times) and we’ve heard many are being reacquainted with muscles they have previously neglected! Our founder, Josip Babich, would be proud of them all.

Check out a few snaps taken by various team members across the country documenting harvest, below.

For the next several weeks, we will see the remainder of our red and white varieties picked using a mixture of hand and machine harvesting. Once harvested, the grapes will find themselves in the winery, where the magical winemaking process will begin…watch this space…

 

Grapes are like honoured guests in the winery. When the first lot arrives in a couple weeks from now, the team need to be ready to give them the welcome they deserve.

One of our biggest challenges is that grapes of the same variety all tend to reach optimum condition for harvest at the same time. Even between varieties, the difference is not that great – no more than a few weeks – and because we want to harvest every bunch of grapes when it’s at its very best, that means that our winery has to be ready to accept a lot of fruit, in a very short period of time. Everything has to run smoothly – not just because it’s stressful enough when a year’s worth of work and production arrives at your doorstep all at once, but because we want to be able to preserve every bit of flavour and quality we get from the vineyard.

In the last weeks before harvest starts, everything undergoes a deep clean, from the grape receival bins to the presses, conveyors and tanks. Being mindful of waste, we try to use as little water as possible, applying it at high pressure for maximum cleaning power. All cooling systems and machines are checked to make sure they’re working as they should, and the team ensure the winery is as empty as possible – especially the fermentation tanks and barrels – so there is room to receive the new crop as it begins its winemaking journey.

Of course, you need dedicated people at every step of the winemaking process, so we’ve added staff to make sure there’s always a watchful eye and caring hand to guide our grapes on their journey to becoming the best wine they can be.

Every vintage brings its own challenges and joys. And as new vineyard blocks come into production, it’s always exciting to see the quality of the fruit and wine that arrives. This year, our Tetley Brook C block in Marlborough has finished its three-year transition to being fully organic, and we’re eager to see the results.

Vintage 2022 is on its way, watch this space!

 

With summer drawing to a close, soon it will be time for our vines to reward us, as we edge closer to the most thrilling time of year; Harvest. Our teams have a lot to do in the lead up to this, as each have their own crucial part to play in ensuring our grapes are delivered to the winery in the best possible condition, so they can go on to make the best possible wine.

After caring and tending the vines and grapes for the past 12 months, our vineyard and viticultural teams are busy concentrating on keeping the vines in tip-top condition. Primarily, by plucking leaves and trimming the vines to make sure they get enough sun and airflow around the young bunches so that diseases don’t take hold, causing rot. They’re keeping other predators in check too; ensuring the vines have first dibs on nutrients in the soil by removing weeds, and placing netting over the vines to protect them from birds.

More importantly, they’re keeping tabs on the fruit – specifically how much there is, their development and condition – because, knowing how much of each variety we are likely to harvest enables us to prepare the Winery team and allocate resources, more effectively.

Careful water use is always front of our mind, especially at this time of year as the vines are extra thirsty. Consequently, the team is busy monitoring irrigation and looking for leaks in the driplines to ensure no water goes to waste, and using new high-tech probes to constantly monitor the moisture content underground. This helps to make sure our vines have enough water and energy for the grapes to ripen to perfection but, are thirsty enough to deliver the concentration of flavour that Babich wines are famous for.

Finally, in the last stretch towards vintage, we make sure everyone on our team gets the opportunity for some well-earned rest before the mad rush of harvest begins. When the grapes are ready to be harvested, the team needs to be ready too, then, it’ll be over to our winemakers to ensure that what ends up in your glass, is pure bliss!

Tune in next week to hear what the winery team are busy doing in preparation for Vintage 2022…

The Babich family is mourning the passing of Joe Babich, New Zealand wine industry pioneer, who passed away on 13 January 2022 after a two year battle with cancer, aged 81.

David Babich, Joe’s nephew and CEO of Babich Wines, said, “On behalf of the Babich family and with great sadness I would like to announce the passing of Joe Babich, much-loved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and New Zealand wine industry pioneer.  Joe was an exceptionally well-regarded and talented winemaker, but his greatest legacy is his positive impact on those around him. Joe was invariably and famously down-to-earth, warm, and approachable, with a wry and gentle sense of humour. He will be sorely missed by family and friends, and colleagues in the wine industry.”

Joe was born on 10 October 1940 into a winemaking family, with his father Josip having founded Babich Wines in 1916 and in time his brother Peter also working in the business. After initially exploring a pharmacist apprenticeship, Joe decided to join the family winery, where over a 60 year career in the wine industry he built a reputation as one of New Zealand’s most talented and respected winemakers and wine judges.

He combined a traditional attitude to winemaking with an open-mindedness that allowed constant innovation. Joe produced, in secret and unknown to family or the winery, one of the first New Zealand Chardonnays to be not only matured, but also fermented, in barrel. The resulting wine, Irongate Chardonnay, continues to be an icon in New Zealand wine even today.

Joe’s contributions to the New Zealand wine industry are extensive, and are recognised by a range of accolades. These include the Winemaker of the Year Award at the New Zealand Royal Easter Show (1994), the Sir George Fistonich Medal in recognition of service to New Zealand wine (2013), the ONZM in the New Year’s Honours for services to the Wine Industry (2015), induction into the New Zealand Wine Hall of Fame (2015), induction into the West Auckland Business Hall of Fame (2016), and investiture as a Fellow of New Zealand Winegrowers (2017).

Joe also served as Chairman of Judges at the New Zealand Wine Awards on six occasions, testament to his leadership, and the respect with which he was held in the industry. He was also instrumental in setting up the wine export certification process which helped pave the way for the growth of New Zealand wine on the world stage.

Joe Babich is survived by his wife, Judy, and son, André and partner Magdalena and their daughter Stella.

 

We love heat in the vineyard. But in the winery… not so much.

Cool temperatures are great to develop fruity flavours when you ferment a wine such as Sauvignon Blanc. That is why you’d often see on a tasting note that the wine was “cool fermented”. By keeping the ferment cool, we can control the metabolic rate of the yeast, thereby influencing how it converts sugar into alcohol and also what flavours are enhanced in the process.

Of course, keeping the wine cool after fermentation helps to lock in the flavours.

Because cooling is so important in winemaking, our Marlborough winery was especially designed with this in mind. Louvres open at night to allow cool air in, and are closed when day temperatures rise to keep the cool air inside. Having a smaller differential between the ambient temperature and the desired temperature of the wine means we need to use less energy.

There is one exception to this chilled-out approach: To start fermentation, we often need to warm up the juice a bit, so the yeast can get going.

Rather than spend a lot of energy to generate heat, we use technology to recover the latent heat released by our usual refrigeration processes, and use that for heating. In effect, the same energy that is already used for cooling some tanks is used to heat others! Pretty neat.

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