Archived News

Browse all our archived news below, sorted by year.



January 2019

Dear Friends of Bell Hill,

Finally, some words from us, I write this while taking a short New Year break in our favourite NZ place, Stewart Island, having some respite from the growing season. Though not yet over, it has been fraught with tasks and very uncharacteristic weather patterns. This has kept us solely focused on the vineyard and therefore, please accept our apologies for being so tardy with our new releases. We hope this letter finds you well and that you have managed to find a spot of summer somewhere.

The fact that the 2015 vintage was very small, due to losing around 75% of the crop to a November hail storm, hasn’t seen us rush into commercial activities with this one. How to allocate 252 bottles of Chardonnay and keep some all-important library stock hasn’t been a task to anticipate eagerly.

Everything is good at Bell Hill having come through winter with another early finish to pruning, an early start to the season and not too many episodes of frost protecting. We purchased a new crawler tractor that arrived from Italy in early November, not too soon as one of our other crawlers has been in and out of the shop for repairs – the juggle of machinery, implements and tasks has been on-going plus the very frequent and high rainfall has seen us working hard to keep on top of weeds and vine growth. With weekly rain over the last two months we have seen a loss of crop as it coincided with flowering but all we can do is look after what we have and hope for that predicted Indian summer in autumn.

For the month or so ahead we will finish our vineyard spraying and weeding programme as well as fine tuning the crop load, even though we have reduced yield, it’s still important to get the vine to vine balance right and take off the green shoulders as well as leaf plucking to keep everything open and exposed. The nets will go on and we will see if we still have that early advantage we had in spring. Last harvest we started very early with our sparkling wine fruit on March 16th and were done with everything by April 5th, I suspect we will run later than that this season. We will also look to bottle our 2017 vintage wines and make some 2017/2018 base wine blends for our sparkling project. Then it’s time for making space and preparing for harvest 2019.

The 2015 wines have benefited from extra time in bottle and as there is only a Bell Hill Pinot Noir and Bell Hill Chardonnay, we have opted to bring some of the 2016 Old Weka Pass Road Pinot Noir forward, partly to relieve that quantity quagmire and to present the fresh young fruit of the 2016 vintage.

Our travels in winter took us to Paris for a day in the trade with our new French importer and then to Burgundy as usual for three weeks, lovely to be in one place, to see the crop developing on the vines and taste previous vintages out of barrel and bottle. It’s always a place of inspiration and discovery. Brian came to France a little earlier and we crossed over for a week or so in Paris, Champagne and Burgundy, nice to share the regions with him and to show that what we do at Bell Hill is “normal”. On our way home, we had 5 days in London with the trade and 3 days in Singapore doing the same.

To tell you a little about the 2015 season, after the initial hail storm we just got on with things, knowing one of the challenges going forward would be with pruning and finding relatively undamaged canes to lay down, this took two years to prune through in some of the blocks but it is a distant memory now, so much weather since then…We needed to be very selective with our sorting for the Pinot Noir as there had been variation in ripening on the bunches due to the hail storm, a lot of tasting on the table but we’re very happy with the complexity that has resulted from this rigorous process. For the Chardonnay, we have not used any new oak due to volume, but the wine has its own structure that does not call for a lot of oak to support or flavour it. On a very positive note, with the 2016 bottlings, we have a Bell Hill Single Block Limeworks Chardonnay. As we go forward we are finding more opportunities to go along the Single Block path when nature’s hands hold us gently.

Our team is doing well, some changes as always and more information about them can be found on our website. Our journalistic reviews have continued to support our direction which is gratifying, and we really believe it is our efforts in the vineyard that find their way into the glass. Thank you for reading our news. We wish you well for 2019 and thank you for being part of our story at Bell Hill.

Best regards,

Sherwyn and Marcel