Now he’s considering the evolution of their model, as Covid-19 crashes down on the restaurant trade they’ve relied on. “I believe the biggest impact on us is coming,” Paul says. “It will play out very slowly and we are going to have to adapt and engage with the local community.”
Boneline’s 2020 harvest rolled out two weeks earlier than typical, with a gentle “grazing” of the vineyard.
They’d been bitten by both hail and bronze beetle in early November, resulting in “some pretty good haircuts on the vines”. But with great flowering and good fruit set, and “the weather playing ball completely”, it is a “stand out” season, says Paul.
“It’s one of those years where I think it’s a beautiful balance of crop loads, with excellent quality across all of our varieties.”
Acids were lower than usual leading into harvest, thanks to warmer nights, and they didn’t have to wait for lower malic, at the price of higher brix. Once they had started, the harvest rolled through neatly, with a two-week gap between the early and late parcels for each variety, except for Pinot Noir, which stretched out over three weeks.
Paul makes two Pinots off the same block, at an equal tier, but stylistically quite different, and developed from year to year. The Wai-iti Pinot, from various Dijon clones, ripens earlier and Paul aimed for 13.5 percent alcohol this year, while the 10/5 “gumboot” clone provides the base of the Waimanu Pinot, “which I had in my head at 14 to 14.5 percent alcohol,” he says. “You plan this stuff in your head, and you know it’s a good season if you can follow through.”
The company was three or four days into picking when the country went into Alert Level 3, followed swiftly by Level 4, “so the wheels were in motion”, says Paul. They picked just 55 tonnes, “so definitely in the little category”, with a small team of local pickers and strict safety measures.
“The Government did such a good thing in getting onto it early enough. If the virus had gotten much worse then it would have been a much more personal decision for each of us going to work,” he says. “We still felt safe.”
The advice from New Zealand Winegrowers was also “excellent”, he adds. “It was great to be told what to do. We feel very fortunate and I think everyone played ball.”
Looking to the future, Paul believes the small size and “fluid” nature of Boneline will stand them in good stead as the Covid repercussions reveal themselves. “We will see what happens and react and try and evolve to what comes.”