Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Early days point to outstanding vintage in Aotearoa

It has famously been said that there is nothing permanent except change, which seems like a brilliant way to get to grips with a friend's change of plan, a rainy day or any of life's interesting curve balls and when it comes to wine, it couldn't be more apt. Innovation and experimentation are alive and well but if there's one thing every winemaker has to hold onto their seats for each year it's vintage variation; that constant variable that keeps winemakers on their toes. The past two vintages of 2022 and 2023 have been challenging, not to put too fine a point on it, so it has been with much gratitude nationwide that the 2024 harvest has been almost picture perfect in New Zealand. 

It is early days and many are still harvesting grapes in the south, but the overall quality has been exceptional, thanks to El Nino weather patterns, which began in December. This saw a sea change from the torrential rains that have afflicted so many parts of Aotearoa over the past two vintages of 2022 and 2023. The word Aotearoa translates from Maori to 'land of the long white cloud' and if there's a better description for vintages 2022 and 2023 in unlucky areas, such as Hawke's Bay and the Wairarapa Wine Region, I can't think of it. Many other regions escaped the devastating cyclone of 2023 but this year's nationwide grape harvest has been picked with a collective sigh of relief and gratitude, nationwide, due to the sheer high quality and disease fruit fruit hanging on the vines. Warm dry weather patterns through the summer of 2023-2024 in New Zealand meant that winemakers were able to choose when they wanted to pick their grapes, without being pressured by rain, wind or frost to have to pick. 

This really has resulted in picture perfect bunches everywhere from Gisborne to Central Otago.

Hawke's Bay winemaker and Chardonnista Tony Bish says that 2024 is an "Incredible Chardonnay harvest."

Four hours south of the Bay, in Martinborough, the vintage is being heralded as one of the best ever. 

"This year is looking like one of the best. Very exciting vintage and I think the wines are going to be great, especially Pinot Noir," said winemaker John Kavanagh, who is head of wine at Te Kairanga in Martinborough; owned by Foley Wines. 

The 2024 vintage has been exceptional across New Zealand’s winegrowing regions, says winemaker Patrick Materman, director of winegrowing for Indevin, which now owns the extensive Villa Maria group.

"Despite lower yields due to variable weather during the flowering periods, the mid-December shift to an El Niño weather pattern brought dry, settled conditions through harvest. With minimal disease pressure, clean, ripe fruit was harvested, with intense flavours whilst preserving great natural acidity. Even at this early stage, the resulting wines appear to be of fantastic quality."

There is much more high praise about vintage 2024 and winemakers from all regions reporting exceptional quality. 

It is early days but winemakers from all New Zealand wine regions are relieved, elated and optimistic about exceptional quality from vintage 2024.

If the grapes that I picked, walked past and have seen in the village of Martinborough are anything to go by, vintage 2024 will be a game changer for New Zealand's already high quality white wines and for its promising Pinot Noirs - from all regions. 

Watch this space.