Long Island Vintage 2013 Report From Merliance

As we reported earlier, Vintage 2013 is one for the record books. And in the interest of further documenting Long Island Wine Country, we’re attaching the vintage report released by Merliance, a trade group dedicated to the promotion of merlot and merlot blends. It’s more technical than we one we ran last week from the Long Island Wine Council, so geeks, pour yourself a glass and onward.

pinot blanc harvest grape_lieb

Exceptional Fruit Will Make for an Epic Vintage

 EAST END OF LONG ISLAND, NY — December 18, 2013 — Vintners on Long Island celebrated the 40th anniversary of the region in 2013 and were rewarded with a harvest that is being hailed as the very best on record. Merliance has compiled data about this year’s grand harvest specifically as it relates to merlot and the Bordeaux varietals commonly used in the red blends produced here: cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot. Based on the quality of the fruit at harvest and early tank and barrel samples, Merliance winemakers report that the epic 2013 vintage promises merlot wines of rich, ripe fruit character, elegant structure and well-balanced, graceful power.

The Growing Season
A year of extremes, 2013 did not start out looking like a landmark vintage. Persistent wet and overcast conditions prevailed throughout the spring. In fact, May and June 2013 were among the wettest on record. As budbreak approached, temperatures across the region were uncharacteristically cool. This combination of gloomy conditions led to erratic fruit set in merlot across many vineyard sites and lower average cluster weights than the long-term average.

But July delivered a heatwave that began to accelerate development in the vineyards.“August was slightly cooler than normal but brought us day after day of brilliant sunshine, setting the stage for what turned out to become a fantastic vintage. I believe that no great vintage is possible on Long Island without a great August,” said Richard Pisacano, vineyard manager at Wölffer Estate Vineyard.

Ripening progressed rapidly in September, as fall brought clear skies. With only 0.3 inches the entire month, October 2013 was the driest since 1963 and the third driest ever recorded. “The last time Long Island saw this little rain in October, the region’s first vines weren’t even in the ground at Hargrave Vineyard. In fact, the first planting was 10 years away,” said Russell Hearn, proprietor and winemaker at T’Jara Vineyards, and technical director at Lieb Cellars.

Dry conditions prevailed through November, enabling winemakers and vineyard workers to harvest in peak season, in terms of both fruit quality and weather conditions. Researchers Alice Wise and Libby Tarleton of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Viticulture Program characterized the 2013 vintage as “one that vineyard managers live for.”

The Harvest
Merliance members provided the following technical data from their respective vineyard sites.* It was aggregated (not averaged) as shown below and validated by Ms. Wise.

As is common practice in our relatively compact region, all Merliance members harvest their fruit by hand. For merlot, picking began on October 6 and resumed mid-month. Yield (as measured in tons per acre) ranged from 2 to 3.5—an improvement over 2012 tonnage. By all accounts, the quality of the fruit was very high, due to moderate yields and conducive weather conditions throughout the second half of the growing season. Brix, as measured at time of harvest, ranged from 22.5 to 25, with pH (acidity) of 3.50 to 3.8, creating an ideal balance of sugar to acid. The other Bordeaux varietals yielded similar results:

  Harvest dates Yield (tons/acre) Brix pH 
Merlot October 6; October 15-25 2.0 – 3.5 22.5 – 25.0 3.50 – 3.8
Cabernet Franc October 21; 28-29 2.0 – 3.8 23.0 – 24.7 3.6 – 3.83
Cabernet Sauvignon October 29 – 31 1.71 – 2.33 22.5 – 23.8 3.39 – 3.61
Petit Verdot October 29 – November 4 1.86 – 2.2 25.3 – 26.7 3.27 – 3.53

*Harvest data presented is a range from the lowest to highest figures in each category, as submitted by Merliance members. Individual winery data is proprietary.

For a year-to-year comparison, please see the Merliance harvest report from 2012, available online here.