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Monday, April 15, 2024
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Winemakers counting their weather blessings

Wairarapa winemakers are relieved their grapes have survived the unseasonably wet summer largely unscathed.

Dry River winemaker Ben McNab said they got off lightly.

“We had a really good flowering; the yield was there from the start.

“If we keep having sunny days, we’ll be in amazing shape for the harvest.”

While the yield hasn’t been affected, other growers are working hard to prevent diseases that favour warm and wet conditions.

“We won’t know whether it affects harvest until the end of the season [April],” Le Gra Winery co-owner Brian Geary said.

“High humidity and heavy rainfall made the perfect disease-growing conditions, and now we have lots of sun, which attracts mildew and fungal disease.”

Geary said they’ve more vigilant in regards to disease control.

“Sometimes we can use different [sulfur-based] sprays to prevent diseases. We all try to use them sparingly. Our usage depends on the weather and the disease risk.

“We try to be as organically inclined as we can. More sprays mean extra usage of the tractor, fuel, oil and sprays, so we
try to keep it to a minimum.”

The heavy rainfall will also likely affect the wine’s flavour, Geary said.

“Towards the end of the season, Wairarapa usually has long dry summers, which determines the flavours and the aromas.

“This year, the rainfall leads to more moisture in the soil, so the grapes absorb more water. It will change the flavour profile.”

Gladstone Vineyard winemaker Monty Petrie said they’re busy managing their vines to prevent diseases.

“We’ve used sprays and covers, leave plucking. We’ve been leaving some of the vines to grow, so that if they do get diseases on the new shoot, we can just cut it off.”

Petrie remains optimistic – “Last year was also wet and considered a high disease risk year, but we still had a good harvest” – and said the weather patterns are something to get used to.

“People forget that weather comes in patterns. We had similar weather in 2017 and 2018. This is the second year of La Nina, which means next year we’ll likely have a neutral phase.

“Last year we were stressed out because we hadn’t predicted it, but this year we’re feeling a lot more prepared. I think our vines are strong enough to handle it.”

The winemakers are determined to stay positive and are feeling for their wine growing colleagues in Hawke’s Bay who’ve been affected by Cyclone Gabrielle.

“It looks like wineries in Hawke’s Bay will take a decade to recover,” Geary said. “As long as we’re drawing breath, we consider ourselves lucky.”

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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