Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Short, sweet and smaller than usual

Dr John Forrest is soaking up in the last chilly rays of sun on a late autumn afternoon when we talk about vintage 2024 in Marlborough. He describes the 2024 vintage as one of the best and one of the smallest in the past decade.

"It was definitely a year for using stalks in the Pinot ferments and I'm usually sitting on the fence about stalky ferments so it is an exciting year for quality," says Forrest, when describing vintage 2024 in Marlborough.

It was far from smooth sailing, however, despite the high quality grapes that were harvested. 

Volumes were down about 30 per cent across the region, he predicts, and while summer was hot, it was short lasting and required ample irrigation. 

"The warmth switched off like a light switch in the first few days of March and we went back to a cool vintage. So we had a good summer but the heat meant we were accumulating a lot of sugar in the grapes without the slow ripening we needed and without the acid drop, until the first few weeks of March.

"We really hit the jackpot in mid March to early April and we had a great harvest with superb flavours across the board." A drop of about 30 per cent in volume of grapes harvested this year is a mixed blessing.

Forrest is far from alone in experiencing a very high quality vintage due to heat and a dry summer, with similar stories emerging from Hawke's Bay, the Wairarapa and Central Otago.

In the country's biggest wine region, Marlborough, the lower volume is a blessing. A lot of wineries went into this vintage with 30% to 40% per cent of the previous vintage still in tanks, waiting to be sold," says Forrest. "This year will allow for a rebalance, which we could do with in this region."

The oversupply has made life tough for winemakers in Marlborough over the past four years and is the result of unreliable global shipping, the rising costs due to this and, now, the global economic slump. The situation of over supply can now started to be addressed but there will be pain before there can be gain. Not least because cashflow is tight for many wineries following three tricky years. Then again, New Zealand's wine industry has rarely been one that focussed on high volume, so a high quality year also helps to refocus attention. 

It was exactly that thought that led Forrest to produce Pinot Noir from the Waitaki Valley, which borders South Canterbury and North Otago. It's a place he feels passionately about, albeit a tricky one due to its hybrid cold continental and semi maritime climate, inland from Oamaru in the South Island. It is also the smallest wine region in this country.

Waitaki Valley 2024

The Waitaki Valley had a drier season than usual season in 2024 and harvest kicked in a week earlier than normal for Forrest, who began picking grapes there on 19 April. 

"We had a lot more time to play in the Waitaki Valley in terms of selecting picking times and both the quality and style from Waitaki this year are fantastic with floral aromatics and lovely savouriness."

Marlborough vintage 2024 summary

Forrest says it will take another 15 months to two years for Marlborough to get into a more balanced situation with supply and demand.

"That may seem like a long time to wait but thanks to the superb quality from 2024, we should get into better balance with stocks, supplies and overall balance in that time."

Wine of the week

2020 Tatty Bogler Pinot Noir Waitaki Valley RRP $45

Beautiful expression of cool climate Pinot Noir from the limestone laden hills of the Waitaki Valley in the South Island of New Zealand. This is the smallest wine region in the country and sits on the border of North Otago and South Canterbury. Flavours of lithe, luscious red fruit, a light note of spice and a beautiful fresh fragrant perfumed aroma all make this an exciting wine now and into the future. Decant before drinking. 

Buy from