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Grape harvest 2009 kicks off for Montana

Media release
18th February 2009

Grape harvest 2009 kicks off for Montana

New Zealand’s 2009 grape harvest kicks off in all earnest this Thursday, when grapes for the country’s most popular sparkling wine, Lindauer, will be picked in Gisborne.

Gisborne, being warmer than more southerly wine regions, is traditionally the first of New Zealand’s major wine regions to begin harvest. The Chardonnay grapes for méthode traditionnelle wines such as Lindauer and Montana Reserve Brut Cuvée need to be harvested with slightly higher acidity than those for still wines, so are normally the first fruit off the vine. The Pinot Noir that constitutes the rest of the blend follows soon after.

A dry Spring and early Summer period saw a strong, even budburst and set the vines up for an excellent flowering. Pinot Gris in particular. had a good set, however some clones of Chardonnay flowered through a slight cooler snap which has naturally restricted their yield.

With the warm summer we’ve had this year, the 2009 harvest is unusually early - about a week before last year’s start date.

“Everything is on track for us to start taking fruit off the vines first thing on Thursday morning,” says Mike Insley, National Vineyards Manager for Montana. Apart from mechanical harvesters, a team of over 50 temporary staff have been engaged in Gisborne to help harvest the fruit in the best possible condition.

“Our early indicators are forecasting that we should have 20% of the Gisborne harvest in before the end of February. Before long we’ll be working around the clock, hard work, but necessary to make sure we capture the grape quality in the bottle” says Mike.

At the Montana Gisborne Winery, where the grapes are to be turned into New Zealand’s leading domestic and export wine, staff are looking forward to a few months of intense activity.

To speed up proceedings and maintain grape quality, the part of the winery where the grapes are received has been upgraded substantially since last year. The new state-of-the-art facilities mean Montana can get the grapes into the presses in the best possible condition.

“Winemakers know that the quality of a wine is determined in the vineyard,” says Mike “The exceptionally warm, dry summer we’ve had was great for grape quality. We expect to be getting very good fruit into the winery.”

The rain in early January refreshed vine canopies and helped to increase the size of the grape berries. “Because of this, we estimate that yields this year will be slightly above average. Another major positive is that we’re seeing very even ripening, especially in red varieties such as Merlot, which bodes well for wine quality further down the track,” says Mike.

He says it is too early to make firm predictions about the quality of the overall harvest, but indications at this stage are certainly very good.


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