Harvest of grapes sparkling success

Kurow Estate winemaker Andy Nicole (left) and vineyard manager Renzo Mino check the first grapes...
Kurow Estate winemaker Andy Nicole (left) and vineyard manager Renzo Mino check the first grapes harvested in the Waitaki Valley this season, which will also be used to produce the region's first methode traditionelle wine. The estate's marketing manager Steve Harrop (background, left) and operations manager Geoff Turner were helping with the picking yesterday. Photo by David Bruce.
It is going to be a champagne year for winemaker Kurow Estates.

Yesterday it celebrated three firsts, including picking the first grapes in this season's vintage in the Waitaki Valley region, and the first from its new Kurow vineyard.

But the chardonnay grapes harvested yesterday will create an even bigger first: they are going into the Waitaki Valley's first methode traditionelle.

It took most of the day to pick the chardonnay grapes which, combined with pinot noir, will form the basis for the valley's first sparkling wine.

Winemaker Andy Nicole plans to produce about 300 cases of the wine, which will go on sale for the first time in 2013 under the premium Pasquale label.

But first comes the labour-intensive, traditionally complex task of making it.

The vineyard surrounding the valley's only winery, near Kurow, was planted with chardonnay, pinot gris, riesling, gewurztraminer, viognier and pinot noir grapes in 2007.

The 15ha, formerly Turner's stonefruit orchard, has about 65,000 plants.

The chardonnay harvest yesterday is the first pick from the vineyard since it was planted, part of viticulture development in the Waitaki and Hakataramea Valleys by Antonio Pasquale.

Marketing manager Steve Harrop said the chardonnay grapes used for methode traditionelle were picked earlier, before the sugar content was too high to create the acidic, clean taste of the sparkling white wine.

Kurow Estates was aiming to create a methode traditionelle as close to the French style as possible, he said.

The harvest is about a week to two weeks ahead of other varieties in the valley and Mr Harrop expected a good vintage.

"We are getting awesome yields, good fruit and excellent grape flavour already," he said.

With the hope of long sunny periods of weather in the next two or three weeks, the only thing that could upset "a brilliant year" was early frosts.

That came close on Tuesday night when the temperature hovered around 0degC.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz


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