Vineyard owners weather hail damage

CHLOE WINTER
Last updated 10:15 18/03/2014
Sam Weaver
CHLOE WINTER/Fairfax NZ
HIT HARD: Churton owner Sam Weaver is upset that one of the worst affected blocks in his Waihopai Valley vineyards was his petit manseng variety.
Grape damage
CHLOE WINTER/Fairfax NZ
HIT HARD: Grapes damaged by hail

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Owners of a small Marlborough wine company are doing their best to stay positive after hail earlier this month damaged their entire crop.

Churton's Sam and Mandy Weaver said all 16 blocks at their Waihopai Valley property had been affected during the hail storm that hit on March 3.

"The vineyards had half an inch of hail on the ground all night but that was not what did it," said Mr Weaver.

It was the 10 minutes of hail downfall that did the damage, he said.

His wife, Mandy, described the storm as the "game changer".

"Quite a lot of the vineyards look like someone has taken a shotgun to them," Mr Weaver said.

They had completely written off the two worst-hit blocks - sauvignon blanc and petit manseng.

"It was hugely emotional, I burst into tears."

They were now in rescue mode; the best blocks had about 20 per cent damage so it was a matter of trying to pick and process the remainder.

Their vineyards were spread over 22.5 hectares and they wanted to focus on the positives rather than the negatives, Mr Weaver said.

"It's very easy to find the faults rather than the positives.

"The fruit we picked last week was fruit we wouldn't have normally picked. [But] because the rain was coming we had to harvest early to save the fruit."

This was the first time they had to machine harvest their fruit because of the urgency to pick what good fruit they had before the weekend, Mrs Weaver said.

The weather over the weekend was a positive for them though, as it brightened up some of the damaged leaves.

They also brought in five extra beehives, on top of the six they already have, to clean up the broken berries and minimise potential infection, he said.

Another positive had been the industry support - they had received calls from eight vineyards offering their help.

"We will recover . . .We've still got some great fruit on our vines."

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- The Marlborough Express

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