Winemakers hope rain stops soon

21:06, Apr 17 2013
Helen Crofskey
Blocked drain: Helen Crofskey of HEB Construction cleans leaves out of a gutter in Scott St

Marlborough winemakers and grapegrowers are waiting with bated breath in the hope that rain will not dampen what has so far been a "dream" season.

While the bulk of Marlborough grapes have been safely harvested and are fermenting in tanks in the region's wineries, there is still a significant amount of fruit hanging on the vines.

Yealands Estate owner Peter Yealands said they had brought in most of their fruit, and would pick the remaining grapes when the weather cleared.

"We've had a dream run up until now, but you can't control the weather," he said.

A steady bout of rain increased the risk of botrytis and "slipskin", a fungus that infects grapes in wet or humid conditions.

But the good news was that it appeared the rain was coming from the south, carried by cool temperatures, with little risk of disease, he said.


While MetService last night forecast rain for the next 10 days in Blenheim, climatologist Stu Powell said he thought there would not be as much rain as expected. "I think you'll find the forecasts will improve, and it won't be as wet as we first thought."

After a heavy dump of rain overnight the rain will ease off, and heavy rain will not return until Friday or Saturday, he said.

Plant and Food scientist Mike Trought said most wineries had finished harvesting, but those that still had fruit on the vines would be hoping the rain would stop soon. "It won't be doing the fruit a lot of good at the present time."

Villa Maria winemaker Murray Cook said they were "almost over the finish line" with all their top parcels of fruit picked.

However the rain yesterday had delayed harvesting for at least 36 hours, to let the fruit dry out. "The fruit so far has been in very good condition, with very little botrytis.

"We wouldn't want [the rain] to linger for a few more days otherwise it could get a bit ugly."

Allan Scott Wines owner Allan Scott said apart from a few small parcels of fruit, they had almost finished the harvest.

The rain was not likely to affect the remaining fruit too much, he said.