Grape harvest up; season warmest in decades

Central Otago Winegrowers Association spokesman James Dicey beside his finished crop for the year in Bannockburn. Photo: Tom Kitchin
Central Otago Winegrowers Association spokesman James Dicey beside his finished crop for the year in Bannockburn. Photo: Tom Kitchin
The weather for this year's Central Otago wine vintage was the warmest since 1956 and tonnage was up, on trend with the rest of the country.

A statement from New Zealand Winegrowers said New Zealand benefited from ''a warm summer'' and 419,000 tonnes of grapes were harvested in the country's vintage this year.

This was up 6% on the 2017 tonnage, but still lower than first anticipated, due to an early start to the season.

Central Otago Winegrowers Association spokesman James Dicey said recently tonnage for the district was up by about 15%.

Normally the district produces 8000 to 10,000 tonnes but this year it climbed to 11,500.

''There were really good yields,'' Mr Dicey said.

The harvest was the earliest in the history of modern winemaking in Central Otago, since 1987, when winemaking began.

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said production of pinot noir and merlot had lifted more than 20% on last year nationwide, as the amount of these varieties were down sharply in 2017.

Mr Dicey said Central Otago produced little merlot, but pinot noir equated to 77% of the district's industry.

He said pinot noir had a larger vintage than last year, but not as significant as 2008 and 2014 which had the largest vintages ever for the variety.

This year's harvest was four to five weeks long and finished at the end of March, three weeks early.

However, he said a problem with the shortage of workers which the Otago Daily Times covered at the start of the season was never solved.

''We were a bit behind the eight ball ... we struggled throughout the season.''

There were more hectares of vines than previous years but not enough people to staff them.

The cost of housing and freedom camping restrictions had an impact on worker supply.

He said he did not yet have a solution to the shortage of workers problem but the industry was working with the community and district council to find one that would bring more workers to the area when needed for future years.

The first of the wine harvested this year would be ready for sale from mid-2019.

tom.kitchin@odt.co.nz

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