Marlborough harvest beats last year by 100,000 tonnes

Grape harvesters make their way up the Wairau Valley.
DEREK FLYNN/Fairfax NZ

Grape harvesters make their way up the Wairau Valley.

Marlborough has reaped nature's bounty with a bumper harvest, but the hard work has only just begun for some. 

This year 323,290 tonnes of grapes were harvested in the region, an increase of more than 100,000 tonnes on last year. 

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said the harvest met demand for wine overseas, and the wine industry would be working flat-out to market their product. 

"It's a pretty good place to be," Pickens said. 

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Pickens attributed the high yield to several factors, including rain at the right time. 

The harvest began early this year, and went on well into April.

It was one of the longest harvests in memory, he said. 

"Nature's given us this strong crop," he said. 

There had been a lot of crop-thinning to reduce the harvest to the targeted amount, Pickens said. 

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A strong crop of grapes for low-alcohol sauvignon blanc was one of the reasons the harvest started so early, he said. 

Wine industry members would be travelling overseas to market their wine. 

Harvesting grapes for sparkling wines began on the last day of February. 

Harvest was actually the quietest time of year for Wine Marlborough, but the region's wine industry was busy all year round, he said. 

The increase in the amount of grapes harvested this year was reflected in most other wine-producing regions around the country. 

Nationally, the volume of grapes harvested was 436,000 tonnes, up from 326,000 tonnes last year. 

The volume in 2014 across the country was a record-breaking 445,000 tonnes.  

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said New Zealand wine exports were valued at $1.56 billion, up 13 per cent from 2015. 

"The 2016 vintage will definitely keep us on track to achieve our goal of $2 billion of wine exports by 2020," he said. 

This year, Waipara Valley saw a massive 144 per cent increase from last year in the amount of vintage produced, compared to a 39 per cent increase in Marlborough. 

However, Canterbury, Northland and Gisborne saw decreases. 

According to wine industry statistics more than three-quarters of this year's vintage came from Marlborough. 

The region which produced the second-highest amount of wine was Hawke's Bay, with 10.6 per cent of the vintage. 

Every harvest there was progress made with efficiency, Pickens said. 

Marlborough Clos Henri winemaker Damien Yvon said harvest had gone "pretty smoothly". 

The winery had produced some "very delicate" pinot noir this year, and some fairly rich sauvignon blanc wine, which was waiting to be bottled. 

While some vineyards had experienced their longest harvest ever, Clos Henri had experienced their shortest, harvesting all of their grapes in two weeks and two days. 

Waipara Hills winemaker Simon McGeorge said the wine company, which had vineyards in Marlborough and the Waipara Hills, had a very good year. 

"We've had a great season, and a very stable and very dry autumn."  

The winery had a particularly good season for pinot noir and pinot gris varieties, McGeorge said. 

TerraVin winemaker Gordon Ritchie said he was very happy with how the harvest had gone. 

"It was quite a hot summer, it was like the summers of old really," he said. 

It was good to have a long, fine period to harvest the grapes, he said. 

He was particularly pleased with the chardonnay produced by the winery this year. 

 - The Marlborough Express

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