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Winemakers cultivate exchange

Several winemakers and viticulturists from Wairarapa wineries have started a new learning exchange with their southern counterparts.

Earlier this month, a group called Wairarapa Wines sent four of its members down to North Canterbury – home to more than 90 vineyards – to build connections, exchange knowledge, and develop skills.

The four representatives were Jannine Rickards [winemaker at Urlar Vineyards, and winemaker and director at Huntress Wine], Harriet Diederich [Ata Rangi supervisor], Tom de Hamel [Cambridge Road] and Dylan Jacobs [Homefields Wines].

Wilco Lam, Wairarapa Winegrowers Association chair and On Giants’ Shoulders winemaker, said this was the official representative bodys’ inaugural visit to another region.

North Canterbury was selected for the learning exchange because the group saw Waipara – a small remote valley 45 minutes north of Christchurch – as “a peer, with similar style producers and setup”.

“Other regions are so much bigger in their planted areas of vineyards and have a different exposure to the consumer,” Lam said.

“They face some of the same climate challenges that we already face and know we will face in the future.”

The group learned strategies for innovative approaches in the cultivation of wine grapes, managing climate change and drought, winemaking techniques, and consumer relations, and also explored grape varieties other than Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Some of the common challenges faced by the two regions include the impacts of spring frosts and labour force shortages, Lam said, who hopes this facilitated exchange of ideas will improve vineyard resilience, as well as build relationships with producers elsewhere.

“I think the benefits are great and will improve over time with the continuation of the relationship,” he said.

“We all deal with similar issues and crave relationships with others with whom we can discuss our issues and solutions.

“A good tool for success as individuals and as an industry is collaboration.”

Lam said Wairarapa Wines aims to continue the learning exchange with counterparts in Waipara on an annual rotational basis.

Attendee Harriet Diederich said she was impressed at how open the North Canterbury wineries were in sharing their experiences.

“There were things they are doing that reinforced the approach we are already taking, but they also have some strategies and ideas that were new to us – ideas like alternative trellising systems and the use of drones for spraying,” Diederich said.

“The Wairarapa is looking forward to hosting representatives from North Canterbury early next year to continue the exchange of ideas.”

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