It is commonly held that wine is a blend of soil, weather, art and science; often with no element more important than the other. At our Pisa Terrace® Vineyard , a single feature has a dominating influence on grape quality: the WIND. From refreshing breeze to gale force northwesterly, the winds can chase away disease and frost, moderate the summer heat, or physically stress the vine to slow ripening and intensify flavour. Even our growth limiting soil, a loess of glacial origin, was deposited by the wind eons ago.
Winds here vary greatly in direction and intensity, and can easily reach gale force strength during the Springtime. To mitigate this debilitating effect on the vines, we built an 8 meter tall windscreen at the northern edge of Pisa Terrace to protect the vines from the battering intensity of the Nor’westers. The trees and shrubs we planted in this exposed area are now thriving and have taken the place of this windscreen. This has made a dramatic difference to vines in the first few bays of each row; we will eventually extend this wind protection to other border areas of the vineyard.
Weather is a rollercoaster in Central Otago. Frost is an unnerving possibility during at least two months of the year following budburst. As our frost episodes are rare, we don’t own wind machines but rather contract a helicopter. During most frost episodes, we have an inversion layer, and a hovering helicopter forces warmer air down to displace the cold layer of frosty air. What we fear the most is a freeze, something we can't protect against (has happened 3 times to us). This happens when the snow comes down low, and a katabatic wind off the cold slopes at dawn robs the inversion layer. Frost alarms can sound in the middle of summer, when a southerly front pushes through the cold breath of Antarctica. The diurnal cycle in Central Otago evidences dramatic temperature swings during the course of a day, particularly during the growing season. The cool nighttime temps preserve high natural acidity while the elevated afternoon temperatures promote excellent development of ripeness.