2022 Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc
If I learned one thing from the light crop year of 2022, it was to appreciate what you have and never take a full crop for granted.
In the Southern Ontario climate, it seems like just enough time passes between severe winterkill events to lull you into the false sense that a vineyard is invulnerable, and vines producing fruit is a given. Sometimes I even catch myself complaining about having to endure the laborious task of removing excess clusters – oh the humanity!
Suffice it to say, there was no such complaining in 2022. A myriad of events led to a depressing amount of trunk damage and vine death heading into the growing season. The main culprits, in my opinion, were the late season disease incidence in 2021 and the severely up and down nature of the subsequent winter.
What we were left with was 25% of a normal crop, much like the yields harvested in 2005 and 2015. The challenges of a light crop are many, with the most obvious being no room for error! Finding balance within a block, in terms of nutritional requirements, can prove very difficult when vines are bearing variable amounts of fruit or are dead altogether. A lighter crop will tend to ripen quicker as well, often times leading to issues with diminished acidity and overripe characters. Some vines even budded out promisingly, only to wither up later in the summer along with our false hopes.
With all that in mind, and given the popularity of Sauvignon Blanc within our winery portfolio, you can probably infer my feelings on the precious bit of fruit I was tending to in the summer of 2022. Thankfully, the growing season was excellent overall and very conducive to our needs. We were spared the usual blast of heat and humidity in the days leading to harvest, allowing the few hanging clusters a chance to ripen gracefully.
One odd phenomenon that came about was the noticeable increase in bird damage in our Sauvignon Blanc vineyard. The birds normally ignore the Sauv Blanc in favour of the adjacent Pinot Noir block, but they sure seemed to take a liking to those tasty golden berries in 2022. It marked the first time we had to apply netting as a means of protection. Upon reflection, it is surely the scarcity of fruit throughout the region that altered their feeding habits.
Our entire crop, 2478 kg, was harvested on September 13th. What it lacked in quantity, it certainly made up for in quality, as the fruit came in at 19.0 degrees Brix and 8.25 g/L TA.
84% of the juice was fermented in French oak (mainly neutral) and 16% in tank using Zymaflore X5 yeast. All vessels were fermented cool (9C) and stopped at an average specific gravity of 0.998, just slightly off dry. The finished wines were aged for another six months before blending. 177 cases were bottled on April 6th, 2023.
A noticeably riper and rounder version than previous vintages, there is also a crisp core to this wine that I find irresistible. Aromas include peach, lychee and pineapple with flavours of peach candy most prominent at this stage of its evolution. To that end, I am far more bullish on the notion of aging Sauv Blanc these days. We recently cracked a 2013 SB that blew me away, shattering my notion that aromatic Sauv Blanc is best enjoyed within a year or two of release. The fact that this wine could transform in such an interesting way after ten years in bottle, whilst maintaining its hallmark tropical fruit aromatics, was truly eye-opening. Who knew?