Grape growers enjoy season

TRACY MILES
Last updated 05:00 09/01/2014

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The patchy weather may be bothering holidaymakers, but South Canterbury grape growers are smiling.

"It's a really good year so far," Gary Dennison of Point Bush Estate Vineyard and Winery said.

"We're getting enough rain to keep the vines happy and we're getting enough sun to keep the diseases at bay - so far, anyway."

That is better news than last year when a late rain trashed pinot noir and pinot gris grapes a week before harvest. Some sauvignon blanc was salvaged because of a later harvest time.

This season started strongly with an early start to bud burst. The vineyard's position on a hill below Waimate's white horse monument is frost-free with good natural air drainage.

Late frosts can ruin potential crops and, like other weather events, wipe out a season's worth of production.

"It's part of farming really."

In a good year the goal is to get enough to tide the vineyard over through lean years. 2009 and 2011 were good years.

Opihi Vineyard's Brenda Lyon said their grapes were also thriving.

"It's been good this year. Flowering was earlier than usual and we've struck good weather. If flowering had been at the normal time, the vines would have struck dull weather.

"A light frost may have affected some of our grapes on the flat but not very much. The vines are looking lovely and healthy, they're looking good."

The vineyard grows pinot noir, pinot gris and smaller amounts of chardonnay and riesling, and muller thurgau for verjuice. The vineyard also lost a crop of pinot noir last year when a January hailstorm thrashed the vines.

The season has a way to go yet, with Opihi harvesting in April-May.

She said they wanted "lovely sunny weather, like everybody else" and rain now and then to keep things moving.

"We've been farming for 40 years, so you just learn that if the weather goes against you, you've just got to work with it."

Quarry Rock's Karen McCrostie said the fruit quality and quantity was better this year.

"We've just got to get it to ripen. It's been nice and mild. What we need now is sun, hot dry days and sunshine."

Quarry Rock grows pinot noir, riesling, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.

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- The Timaru Herald

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