Wine region prepares for harvest

Greystone Wines Vineyard in North Canterbury. Photo supplied
Greystone Wines Vineyard in North Canterbury. Photo supplied
North Canterbury winemakers have celebrated the start of the grape harvest in what they say is the "toughest season ever".

The region is now preparing for a challenging harvest with Omicron on its doorstep.

"Our grapes won’t wait for Covid, so we are doing everything we can to protect ourselves and ensure we can remain operational," North Canterbury Winegrowers Association chairman and Greystone Wines viticulturist, Mike Saunders says.

However, while it has been one of the toughest seasons Mike has worked in, "the fruit is looking superb", he says, despite a mixed bag of rain and lack of sunlight.

This has meant working smarter in the vineyard by "doing all we can to protect the vines throughout the season", including opening up the leaf canopy to allow the air to get in to dry out the vines.

The start of harvest was celebrated on February 25, under strict Covid-19 protection protocols, with Hurunui Mayor Marie Black picking the first grapes at Greystone's vineyard.

Mrs Black said the combination of challenging weather and working in a Covid environment this season placed additional pressure on local vineyards.

"The North Canterbury Wine Region is a crucial part of our district’s fabric, and I can only imagine all the hours and hard work that has gone in to getting to this point."

Mr Saunders said winegrowers were lucky to have critical worker status.

"We have to be exemplary, and that is what we intend to be."

Teams are being split into two distinct bubbles "so we can carry on as best we can in case a team member has to isolate".

"It is nothing new to us though, as we had to operate like this during the first lockdown at the start of the pandemic."

Some new safety measures have also been adopted this season including having two teams of pickers which will be distanced across rows.

"For the vineyard team, individuals will be assigned a tractor, with nobody working in anything but the tractor assigned to them."

"The nets are now on the vines, and I can’t wait to dive into a busy harvest," Mike said.

"This is what we work towards each year, so bring it on."

North Canterbury is New Zealand’s fourth largest wine region, with nearly 1400 hectares planted in vines.

Around 600 people are employed in the region’s 71 wineries.






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