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This year’s harvest is ripening slowly in Waitaki Valley’s vineyards.
The season will be remembered as a difficult one thanks to the weather, Waitaki Valley Wine Growers Association chairman Andrew Ballantyne said.
The valley was traditionally the last region in New Zealand to pick its grapes. Its long growing season combined with its limestone and alluvial greywacke bases meant it was an exciting place to be a wine producer, but it also had risks such as being exposed to more weather events, he said.
The unusually wet spring was followed by a cool summer and wet, cool autumn — not conducive to ripening the fruit.
The challenge now was to keep botrytis at bay while the grapes matured.
Two vineyards had just starting picking grapes, but the main harvest throughout the valley was due to start around May 1, Mr Ballantyne said. That was a fortnight later than last year.
The grape types to be picked were pinot noir, chardonnay, gewurztraminer, pinot gris and riesling — usually in that order. Riesling was likely to be two to three weeks after pinot noir, depending on the style of riesling the producer wanted.
Ostler Wines Ltd managing director Jim Jerram said his plantings had ‘‘a range of ripeness and effects from the rain that has caused so much damage to vineyards in regions further north’’.
‘‘There was much less rain here from Tropical Cyclone Cook, and as fruit is still some way off from full ripeness for table wine, it has remained in pretty good condition.’’
The season was ‘‘very late’’ this year, Dr Jerram said.
His team was picking some ‘‘bubble base’’ last week, but the bulk of the harvest was at least a week away.
Yields in the Waitaki Valley were expected to be below previous years because of the weather. Getting enough staff for the harvest was not likely to be a problem, Mr Ballantyne said. A mix of locals, backpackers, and seasonal workers from Central Otago would pick the grapes, and ‘‘everyone just mucks in and helps each other out when needed’’.
The valley’s vineyards are Black Stilt, Bobbing Creek, EarthKeepers, Forrest Estate, Ostler, Pasquale-Kurow Estate, Q Wine, River-T Estate, Sublime, and Valli.
Kurow Estate is the only one with its own wine-making operation on-site. Grapes from the other vineyards were sent to places including Alexandra, Waipara and Marlborough to be processed.