Wild weather worries wineries as Nelson vineyards brace for Debbie's remnants
Nelson winemakers have had to harvest early as Cyclone Debbie threatens to destroy crops still hanging on the vine.
The remnants of Cyclone Debbie are expected to hit New Zealand over the coming days, bringing heavy rain and high winds across many parts of the country.
Agnes Seifried of Seifried Estate in the Moutere Valley said staff had been working flat out during dry weather days to harvest as much as possible.
"At six o'clock this morning we had a yarn around the staff and said 'let's leave it today, it's going to be too wet', but then by daylight you could see patches of blue sky and there was no rain," Seifried said.
She said they were out there again today, going through and drying the vines with a sprayer that blew air onto the damp leaves so they could harvest the grapes and hopefully beat the heavy rain.
"The grapes are fairly fragile after all the rain they've had already, so they'll start to rot and they'll fall off and we'll just lose the crop [if the rain hits]."
She said they were about halfway through harvesting the crop.
"Which is a little bit earlier than we'd prefer to be [harvesting] but with all the rain earlier and the cyclone we could see coming we've been working very long hours..."
She said the team were still busy picking but with patches of blue sky around they were hopeful the worst of the weather might miss them.
"We were just talking now and we're a bit optimistic that it might go around the mountains... if this rain does come it will be all over really, or at least make it very difficult."
Valley Neale at Brightwater Vineyards said they'd also had to rush to bring in the fruit.
"We would have preferred a more leisurely pace because [bringing in so much fruit at once] makes the logistics in the winery very difficult and there are long hours," Neale said.
"Having said that, the grapes are fully ripe and we're very happy with the fruit we've brought in, it's nice and clean."
Neale said their hand-picking team had been "absolutely marvellous" while having a lot asked of them in the last week.
She said they finished picking on Monday, but they still had a couple of varieties still on the vines.
"I think most vineyards are in the same boat. They've got in what they could and what was ripe, but there are a couple of varieties [left]."
Neale said they still had merlot and riesling on the vines, but those varieties typically did endure a bit of weather because of when their late ripening.
She said they were bracing for some wild weather on Tuesday afternoon, but expected the worst of it to hit north of them.