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Grape harvest holds up well despite weather

by Sue Courtney
(Published in the "Rodney Times" on April 15th 1999)

Rodney winemakers report mixed influences on the quantity and quality of their harvests as the 1999 vintage nears its end.

The cyclone that swept through the district at the end of November was one of the biggest concerns early in the season. It occurred just as the vines were flowering or setting fruit and those vineyards hit report lower yields.

However, the cyclone was "selective" says Kumeu River's Paul Brajkovich, whose vineyard was not affected. He reports the best fruit set of the last three years and of the harvested grapes he says "We're very pleased". "The quantity is up and the chardonnay is good, if not better than last year".

Coopers Creek winemaker, Simon Nunns, is also pleased. Nunns, who took over as Chief Winemaker for Coopers last October reports while crop levels are lighter than expected, the Auckland fruit is "looking pretty flash". The chardonnay was picked on 1st March, earlier than ever before and the cabernet sauvignon and merlot are the best he's ever seen. "This is due to the dry, warm vintage", he says.

Matua Valley viticulturist, Simon Spence, reports that the Auckland vintage has been "average" with reduced yields as a result of the cyclone. "The constant humidity and wet weather over the last month has been a problem", he says. Of the other areas, Gisborne has been "good", Hawkes Bay "reasonable" and Marlborough is looking "very good". He summarises, "It's been a challenging vintage because of the weather but overall a good, average to slightly above average season".

Stephen Nobilo Jnr reports that Nobilo Vintners have been experiencing a "very good vintage in general, although patchy in some places". Although the grapes were harvested early, they were not as early as expected. "We have had good quality, higher yields and some exceptional blocks such as the hand-picked chardonnay from Gisborne". From Auckland, the red grapes have "extremely good colour with low acids and very ripe flavours".

Further north, the cyclone had noticeable effects and seriously reduced the yields from most vineyards.

Christine Didsbury of Brick Bay reports that the cyclone "knocked" her vineyard and as a consequence no merlot was picked this year. The pinot gris was more sheltered and although the yields are down on last year the fruit is of "excellent quality".

John Crone of Hyperion Wines reports that overall his yields were about 50% down on last year. "Everything is amazingly early but with quite light crops", he says. Hyperion completed their vintage at Easter, just before the heavy rains arrived.

Robin Ransom of Ransom Wines reports the cyclone had one positive aspect, it saved him the job of bunch thinning this year. Quantities were "disappointing" and harvest was early but quality "very good". "The new cabernet sauvignon smells delicious", he says.

Overall it appears to be a "fairly good" vintage and everyone spoken to seems reasonably happy. Pity that the early autumn rains put the damper on a vintage that might have been described as "fantastic". Nevertheless, we should be able to look forward to some "shining stars" from the last vintage of the century.

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