Vineyards reap rewards of dry weather

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2013

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If the scorching sunshine and cool nights continue through late summer and into autumn, then it might pay to invest in Waikato wines, because 2013 is lining up to be a corker vintage.

Yet the weather is a fickle master - just ask wine scientist and organic grape grower Dr Rainer Eschenbruch.

Every growing season when the weather is kind to his two-acre Tamahere vineyard and the humidity is low he starts getting excited.

He's excited now. "But remember, this is New Zealand," he said.

"The grass has problems now [without rain] but the grapes grow deep into the ground to get water," he said.

"But if a sudden splurge of water goes into the grapes, what do they do? They split. Then you might as well say goodbye."

Yet there's also hope of a richer harvest and less disease.

The good weather tends to deliver a more positive ratio of skin to juice - that is, less juice and more skin.

"Since the skin provides most of the flavour, it's more likely to be a flavoursome wine in the end. For a region like Waikato it might be that we get a little more sugar than usual because of improved growth conditions."

Rukuhia's Vilagrad Wines spokesman Jacob Nooyen said they had been waiting for the clear, hot weather since the start of the growing season.

"With the kind of heat we've been getting, harvest will be earlier and our late ripening reds will get ripe, which will be fantastic," he said.

"It's setting up to be an amazing season. If this carries on for a couple of months, it puts us two weeks ahead for harvest and, fingers crossed, we don't have any rain and we bring them in perfect."

In simple terms, Mr Nooyen said extra sunlight basically meant high sugar levels in their 50-tonne grape harvest and the cool nights meant flavour development.

In previous years, Mr Nooyen said, hot months were followed by rain, which was a worry.

It diluted all the fruit juice and increased the chance of disease that could reduce the yield.

Mr Nooyen is picking 2013 to be on a par with vintages such as 2008, 2002 and 2000.

"These are years we've had in the Waikato that haven't been good for the farmers, unfortunately, but they've been fantastic [for wine growers]."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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