Rain hampering harvest

Last updated 07:10 14/04/2014

Seasonal sign: The changing of leaves from green to yellow heralds the closing days of harvest, as shown at the home vineyard at Highfield Estate in Dog Point Rd

Stuart Smith
Chloe Winter
Raincheck: Fairhall Downs Family Estate owner Stuart Smith has slowed down harvesting at his vineyards because of the rain

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The bad weather which has hit Marlborough over the past week has put a damper on harvest, bringing some wineries to a complete standstill.

The rain moved in last Tuesday, just as many of the region's 90 or so wineries were moving into full swing.

TerraVin Wines winemaker Gordon Ritchie told the Express on Friday they had stopped harvest and were waiting for breaks in the weather.

"We are most of the way through. At the moment the weather is not ideal. It's slowed down the intake in the winery.

"We've stopped, but we are a small winery so we can wait until the right moment to pick the last of the fruit."

TerraVin were a boutique winery so they could be flexible with the weather and work with the breaks in rain, Ritchie said.

"We are small enough to fit into those small gaps. We are waiting on about 30 tonnes [of fruit] so we will just wait."

Fairhall Downs Family Estate owner Stuart Smith said he was well over halfway through harvest but the rain was an unexpected hurdle that had slowed things down.

"The rain is a real inconvenience, but there is no point in being grumpy, there is nothing we can do about it.

"At the moment the grapes that are out there are ripe, we are just waiting on the opportunity to get them in."

On Friday Smith had his fingers crossed, hoping the weather would not worsen during the weekend.

"The grapes aren't going to last forever in this weather. [But] this is agriculture and agriculture depends on the weather."

Fromm Winery general manager William Hoare said they hoped to finish harvesting today, but the rain had slowed their harvest, too.

"It's interesting because 08 was a big year and then it rained at the end like this . . . pre that rain a lot of people pulled a lot of fruit off the vines."

The fruit left on the vines was ripe before the rain came, so he was just waiting for a break in the weather to get the last of it in, he said.

"We've got syrah out [on the vines] but the rain won't affect it."

Rain can affect the flavours of the fruit because water dilutes the sugars and acid. If there is too much rain, the grapes start to swell and split, which can result in disease.

Various other wineries have all their fruit tucked away in tanks fermenting - the Express understands Te Whare Ra Wines, Hans Herzog, Nautilus Estate and Cloudy Bay finished harvesting last week.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said despite the rain, harvesters were still out working in vineyards.

"There is a lot of activity still going on . . . most people are a fair chunk of the way through."

The rain was "really unusual" for Marlborough and was an inconvenience, he said.

"There is a lot tension and stress around the weather. We don't want any more rain. We've had enough."

The wineries which had finished harvest were happy with the quality of the fruit, Pickens said.

"The people that are finished are delighted with the flavours, especially with the pinot noir and chardonnay . . . there are a few happy people."

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- The Marlborough Express


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