The team at Masterton’s Matahiwi Estate observing social distancing measures during the harvest. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A long, dry summer and extended fine spell have made for an excellent harvest despite covid-19 travel restrictions making it difficult for some wineries to find pickers. GIANINA SCHWANECKE talks to winegrowers around the region about this year’s vintages.

Luna Estate – Martinborough

Vineyard manager Joel Watson said it had been a memorable season.

“At Luna it’s been outstanding. Aside from covid-19, it’s been an incredible vintage for us.

“We got great quality and plenty of it.”

He said the success of this year’s harvest was testament to the dry summer and ideal growing conditions.

It was also rewarding to see some of the hard work they had put into growing the vineyards finally pay off.

“We’ve put a lot of time and investment into our vineyards. We’ve been undergoing a lot of planting and establishing new blocks.”

Luna had also begun making the move to organic winemaking and would soon begin the certification process.

Watson said they were proud of what they had achieved.

“We are still very positive and bullish about New Zealand wine. The country produces great food and drink.

“We’ve been very excited about growing our pinot noir presence abroad.”

While he knew it had been challenging for other local wineries and contractors to find pickers for the harvest due to covid-19 travel restrictions, they had not struggled with this.

“We normally have quite a good crew here.

“A lot of the people that work in Martinborough live here so we get quite an experienced group of pickers.”

He said the crew still had a bit of work to finish off but were now looking forward to some downtime.

Urlar – Gladstone

Jannine Rickards, winemaker at Urlar in Gladstone said her team was equally looking forward to having some time off soon.

Urlar winemaker Jannine Rickards. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“It’s important to have a rest after harvest, especially one like this because there was all this stress and anxiety relating to covid-19. It was a bizarre harvest with everything that’s been going on in the world.”

It had been particularly difficult for some of their staff who originally came from and had family in hard-hit countries like France and Japan, she said.

“There were a lot of people who were travelling who were then stuck here.

“We managed to hand pick most our pinot noir with a local crew from the Wairarapa. They did a beautiful job of getting it in.”

Harvest had also meant long days for many.

“We were doing big days and we didn’t stop until we had everything inside.

“We’ve been lucky to have some downtime this week.”

The hard work had obviously paid off though, and Rickards was very happy with how the harvest had gone this year.

She was particularly proud of their pinot noir.

They were still waiting to pick some of their late harvest Riesling and were looking to introduce some new wine varieties including a rose and sparkling wine.

“We are making some new different wines as part of our ownership change.”

Pruning would get underway in June and the team was carrying on with some regular maintenance like replacing fence posts in the meantime.

Matahiwi Estate – Masterton

Matahiwi Estate’s winemaker Miles Dinneen. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

It had also been an amazing season for Masterton’s Matahiwi Estate and winemaker Miles Dinneen was looking forward to “another great vintage”.

“I’ve only been here since 2018 but they have all been strong vintages.”

“The actual harvesting season was incredible this year.

“We always like it being a bit dry. We picked most of it before that rain event and then it fined up after that.”

He said it was dangerous to use a superlative to describe wines but this year’s really was the finest.

“The red wine is an amazing colour.

“It’s got strong tannins and aromatics.

“The whites are really strong too when the fruit is clean and you can pick it when you want.”

He said he had been impressed by how people had stepped up despite the uncertainty relating to covid-19 — this hadn’t impacted finding pickers though.

“We are lucky being based outside of Masterton that we have a lovely team of locals and they did a great job.”

The crew had already taken some time off but pruning would get underway soon, as the dry summer meant the leaves on the vines had already dropped off.

The first bottles would likely be out by May, he said.