Bumper wine crop expected

Valli owner and winemaker Grant Taylor at the Gibbston pinot noir block.
Valli owner and winemaker Grant Taylor at the Gibbston pinot noir block.

Central Otago pinot noir is largely insulated from the price fluctuations that can hit the wine industry during a bumper vintage, regional producers say.

The industry is anticipating a bumper crop, which can lead to over-supply and price fluctuations, but Central Otago normally escapes the vagaries of the market because output is small and quality consistently high.

Over-supply issues in previous years hit growers and producers of white wine, especially saudhvignon blanc, whereas Central Otago produces mainly pinot noir.

Most growers and producers are aiming to harvest by Easter, with some a little earlier, depending on sub-region climate.

Northburn Station near Cromwell has already started its harvest and general manager Paul Tudgay said grapes were already being harvested for sparkling wine.

''This part of the Cromwell basin is a bit warmer. We're 23 hectares and have slightly different ripening times. Bunches are small, nice and clean, and flowering was a bit early. That was really good and there've been no major frost incidents.''

Valli vineyard owner and winemaker Grant Taylor said he was expecting a lighter-than-normal crop at his 3.6ha pinot noir block in Gibbston.

Grapes were small this year due to fewer sunshine hours during summer.

''January was hardly summer and is the main month when the grapes get bigger. The berries are smaller; there's a much higher ratio of skin to juice.

''Because the bunches were smaller meant grapes were not as tightly packed and were therefore less susceptible to rot. Smaller grapes also meant more flavour.''

Hawkdun Rise in Alexandra, a 2ha, high-end producer that grows pinot noir and Gewurztraminer, is run by husband and wife John and Suzanne Grant.

Mr Grant said the harvest was probably going to be a little earlier than previous years, with an average-size crop and excellent fruit around Easter.

''The fruit looks good; in our situation we aim for the top end of the market. The market's improving along with the economy.''

Maori Point Vineyard in Tarras produces pinot noir and pinot gris from a 6.5ha block.

Owner John Harris said the winery was also aiming to harvest around Easter and benefited from a spell of fine, sunny weather.

''Everything's looking fine. We have got a very nice balanced crop,'' he said.


The Southland Times