Heading for healthy harvest

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 06:48 21/02/2013

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Viticulturists are comfortable heading into the 2013 vintage, following a "near-perfect growing season".

Cloudy Bay viticulturist Jim White said that though he was not expecting a bumper harvest, yields were looking much healthier than he thought after winter.

"It won't be a big year, but we're feeling pretty comfortable now heading towards harvest," he said.

"If the weather stays like this it should be an easy harvest."

Forrest Estate viticulturist Tim Alexander said he was assessing bunch weights this week, and thought yields would be about the same as last year, about 5 to 7 per cent down overall.

They missed out on the warm temperatures during sauvignon blanc flowering, he said.

"It wasn't looking good pre-flowering, but things are looking a lot better now. I think we'll be on par with last year . . . We're quite happy with that."

Pinot noir in particular was looking lighter than other varieties, although larger bunch sizes appeared to be making up for fewer bunches, he said.

Simon Clark, of Clark Estate in the Awatere Valley, expected an average harvest, vastly improved from 2012 when the fruit struggled to ripen.

"At a fairly rough estimate, the bunches are looking above average weight, there are just not as many of them given the poor flowering two years ago," he said.

Allan Scott, of Allan Scott Family Winemakers, said the warm, dry weather had provided ideal flowering conditions, and the extended sunny spells meant grape growth was well on track.

"We've had a combination of heat, fairly dry conditions and rain at the right time - it's been a near perfect growing season."

Plant & Food principal scientist Mike Trought, of the Marlborough Research Centre, is predicting an average to slightly above average 2013 harvest throughout the district.

December was considerably hotter than average, with a mean temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, 1.3C above its long-term average of 16.7C. The mean temperature last month was 18.2C, slightly higher than the long-term average of 17.9C.

Mr Trought expected yields to be below average this year, after the cool flowering in the previous harvest, which set the potential yield for this year's harvest.

Harvest was down by about 22 per cent across the region last year, with some vineyards down as much as 50 per cent.

Although success from flowering was varied across the region, the long sunny spells during flowering in mid to late December helped mitigate the poor bud initiation of the previous season, he said.

"Feedback I've been getting is that there has been quite a lot of variation throughout the district. Some will have a bigger than average yield and others will have a smaller than average yield.

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"I'd say, based on what I've heard, that we can expect an average or above average harvest from the district as a whole."

He expected harvest to begin about 10 to 14 days earlier than last year. The 2012 harvest was delayed because of the low sunshine hours.

- The Marlborough Express

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