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Winemakers on weather watch

By Hayley Gastmeier and Jake Beleski

Despite a summer which some say was non-existent, winemakers in the region are optimistic this year’s vintage will still stand up.

But with the harvesting season rolling out, the weather forecast is far from favourable, with more rain on the way.

Some Wairarapa vineyards have already begun picking their grapes, with others set to start next week.

Hiroyuki Kusuda, of Kusuda Wines, said the lower than usual temperatures had “slowed everything” down.

Harvesting at the Martinborough vineyard usually began somewhere between March 20 and 25.

But this year the picking process was yet to start, with Mr Kusuda hopeful it would kick off next week.

He said in hotter years harvesting could begin as early as March 12, as in 2014.

He was unsure whether the colder weather would negatively impact the fruit.

“Every year the flavour is different.

“So far the fruit is looking okay, and every year you have different challenges.”

Ata Rangi business manager Pete Monk said pickers were into their second day of gathering fruit, which was “looking good”.

As a rule, Martinborough was “very, very dry”, resulting in lower chances of spoiled fruit.

He said the regular southerly winds increased air movement, making the region less prone to humid weather.

Mr Monk said that rain could have negative impact on the crop.

“You can get split fruit, you can get too much water content in fruit, and in particularly in warmer, more moist temperatures, you can expose your [fruit] to the risk of disease.”

The harvesting season would last about six weeks.

“Obviously we don’t want any wet weather,” he said.

Craig Fryett, a Gladstone Vineyard winemaker, said despite the fact it “hadn’t been the warmest of years”, the fruit was not in bad shape.

“We’ve got through that bad weather pretty well,” he said.

“The flavours are really good.

“The sugars might be lagging, but we’ll still get over the line.”

Too much rain and cooler temperatures meant wines would generally not have the “darker, intense flavours” developed during hotter years.

Mr Fryett said making wine from grapes grown in lower temperatures was “a different kettle of fish really”.

“I’ve been winemaking now for a wee while and in cooler years I can remember the wines might not have been the best, but they can age really well.

“It always surprises you what you can get out of each year.”

Ian McGovern owns Loopline Vineyard in Masterton, and said although the harvest would be later than usual, the crops were in a good state.

“It hasn’t been the ideal season — we’ve hardly had a summer really.

“It would be very nice if it was fine all the time,” he said.

“It’s just uncomfortable picking in the wet and it’s not ideal because the grapes soak a bit of water up.”

Vaughan Paul, of Paulownia Estate in Masterton, said the harvest period at Paulownia took “about three weeks or more”, and it was anticipated harvesting would start in mid-April, he said.

“We’ll be going into the first week or maybe even the second week of May.”

Fairmont Estate in Gladstone is facing a race against time to get through their full harvest period, winemaker Jon McNab said.

“It normally takes about four weeks although I can see that possibly being condensed down to three weeks.

“We might run out of time towards the end if the weather doesn’t play its part and it continues to rain.”

Although it had been a good season for growing, the ripening period hadn’t eventuated as planned, he said.

“I just think maybe the ripening period has been delayed due to the weather.

“The vines certainly aren’t stressed, but the ripening side may have needed a little more sun.”

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