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Potential Great for Hawke’s Bay 2011 Grape Harvest

Potential Great for Hawke’s Bay 2011 Grape Harvest

With the 2011 wine vintage kicking off this week, it appears Hawke’s Bay’s fruit quality will again shine through, with local wine growers delighted at the clean quality fruit on the vines.

Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc., the regional wine organisation, conducts an informal survey every year to gauge how the region’s wineries and growers feel about the upcoming vintage.

“Overall the feeling is very positive, with more than three-quarters of respondents describing the season as good with no major concerns at this stage,” says Lyn Bevin, Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Executive Officer.

“Frosts haven’t been an issue with good fruit set and the early warm dry summer helping ripen the fruit. However, everyone is cautious to say, ‘at this stage’, as it is so very dependent on what happens weather-wise over the coming two months or so.”

This cautionary note was echoed by Hugh Crighton, Vidal winemaker, who commented “there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge before the end of the season.” He noted that Vidal’s Chardonnay and, in particular, Syrah crops were “looking fantastic and in fact, couldn’t look any better.”

Esk Valley’s winemaker Gordon Russell reports that “the potential is great for this vintage but really until the harvest is in, that’s all you can say.” He commented that yields were moderate to light and that would impact positively on quality.

Respondents to the HBWG survey were fairly evenly split between winery and grower members and spread across the region from Esk Valley to Dartmoor, Bridge Pa to Te Awanga. All varieties were included in the survey with the most prominent grapes grown being Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Syrah and Malbec.

Comments indicated that more frequent rainfall and humidity had resulted in increased plant vigour and growth but a very low incidence of disease was reported. The survey reveals that crop size is expected to be about the same as the 2010 year although some expected a larger vintage. Lower yields of Chardonnay were predicted.

Vintage kicked off this week with Pinot Noir for sparkling wine being harvested by Pernod Ricard at Twin Rivers Vineyard. Harvesting will continue until late April and possibly early May due to the diversity of sites and premium varieties Hawke’s Bay produces. Most respondents reported harvest was earlier than last year.

“Not surprisingly, Hawke’s Bay’s stand-out varieties are predicted to be our red wines – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah,” Ms Bevin says. “Merlot was cited as having a particularly good fruit set. The warm summer encourages ripe fruit characters and we hope the heat and weather holds a little longer. Chardonnay was also a top pick for 2011.”

Most respondents expected very little change from the 2010 vintage although more sunshine hours and higher temperatures bodes well for Hawke’s Bay’s red wines.

Given the challenging times the wine industry is facing currently and the reported financial hardships, some wineries and growers had pulled vines or were not expecting to harvest some varieties. Conversely there are some new crops coming on this year, mainly lesser known varieties such as Tannat, Marsanne and Tempranillo.

Local respondents had concerns about the volumes to be harvested in Marlborough for 2011 and the impact of low grape prices, unstable future contracts, and bulk wine exports were affecting all participants in the industry.

The majority of respondents have a place for their harvested fruit, either to their own winery or under contract to another.

A small percentage of wineries are purchasing fruit to supplement the expected vintage of their own fruit or fruit under contract to them, in particular Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as well as some Sauvignon Blanc.

With a great lead-up to vintage, wine growers are praying the weather remains settled with continued sunshine and heat with minimal rain.


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