Local winemakers get harvest boost

By Roger Moroney -
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The latest Hawke's Bay grape harvest has given the industry a major boost after recording a solid increase over the 2015 crop.
The latest Hawke's Bay grape harvest has given the industry a major boost after recording a solid increase over the 2015 crop.

After a modest 2015 wine harvest across the region and the country the 2016 vintage has proved to be a real bottler with Hawke's Bay posting a 19 per cent increase.

The Bay was one of seven of the country's 10 wine-producing regions to post an increase in the volume of grapes harvested and at the end of the picking season an estimated 42,958 tonnes were picked - representing 10.2 per cent of the country's total crop.

Only Marlborough, which is centred on sauvignon blanc to the tune of 303,711 tonnes, rated higher.

All up, across all the regions, the 2016 vintage produced 436,000 tonnes of grapes which was described by New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive officer Philip Gregan as a "welcome boost" for markets, growers and wineries.

"New Zealand wine exports are now valued at $1.56 billion - up 13 per cent in the past year," Mr Gregan said. He said the rebound in production from the latest vintage would be another boost to the export side of the industry.

Leading Hawke's Bay winemaker and chairman of the Gimblett Gravels Association Gordon Russell said he was "absolutely happy" with their yields during the 2016 season. He described the yields as moderate as in the pursuit of quality a lot of fruit thinning had taken place, and believed increases would have likely been down to new plantings coming on stream across the region.

"Yes, we had a pretty good harvest," Mr Russell said.

"We anticipated volumes and our expectations were realised," he said, although he was aware of some downturns in a couple of less widely grown varieties.

In terms of varieties across the country's growing landscape Marlborough's staple sauvignon blanc leads the way and there was a 41 per cent rise in the 2016 harvest over the previous year.

Pinot noir was up 38 per cent with 35,661 tonnes picked, riesling up 31 per cent (5937 tonnes), pinot gris up 26 per cent (24,892 tonnes) and chardonnay up 8 per cent with 29,162 tonnes.

Merlot showed a 1 per cent drop with 9321 tonnes picked.

Total volumes across the board were up 34 per cent over 2015.

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