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Development Enjoys Favourable Growing Season

Groundbreaking Viticultural Development Enjoys Favourable Growing Season

Climatic conditions, including a frost-free spring, are bolstering confidence in New Zealand’s newest grape growing district.

Over the past two years, a group representing well-known businesspeople, including Howard Paterson and Colin Reynolds, has instigated the development of 1500 hectares of land in the upper Waitaki Valley between Duntroon and Kurow for viticultural, horticultural and lifestyle blocks.

Viticultural consultant Greg Hay of Peregrine Wines said meteorological data collected from sites at Otiake over the past three years has reaffirmed its potential to ripen grapes at rates similar to Central Otago.

The largest single planting of just under 10 hectares began last week. Once complete this will bring the total area of land panted in grapes to 25 hectares. Varietals planted include pinot noir, pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc.

Mr Hay believes the district’s limestone soil and climate make it well suited to late ripening varietals such as pinot noir. Other strengths include an early bud burst, warmer weather during November and December as well as a longer ripening season due to the district’s later autumns.

“Everyone thought we were pushing the boundaries by trying to grow grapes in Central Otago 20 years ago. The Waitaki Valley is in a similar position now but the main difference is we have more data to work with from the valley,“ he said.

And unlike Central Otago’s pioneering viticulturalists, those backing developments in the Waitaki Valley will benefit from the existence of world-class winemaking facilities and technical expertise in Central.

While vineyards in the Hawkes Bay and Marlborough had lost fruit due to late frosts this year, no frost fighting had been carried out on the Otiake blocks, Mr Hay said.

“The real test will be the first couple of vintages where we will get a good look at the available fruit. Data collected indicates that this should take place on time around April.”

Initially, grapes grown in the valley will be destined for winemaking facilities in Central Otago although in the long term, it was likely that winemaking facilities would also need to be developed locally.

“Winemakers won’t try to copy the style of wine produced from Central Otago fruit. Waitaki Valley wines will have to succeed on their own merit but based on what I’ve seen so far, things are looking good.”

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