Drought good news for winemakers

By Erica Donald

This year's drought was not ideal for most Northlanders, but the region's winemakers are toasting the dry summer and predicting a vintage year for their wares.

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said an "outstanding New Zealand summer" and ensuing drought provided ideal growing conditions across the country.

Mr Gregan said he expects the 2013 Northland vintage to be particularly good.

"The 2013 [harvest] looks set to be a vintage to remember," he said.

Statistics from Niwa showed that Northland was hit particularly hard by drought, which was the worst in 60 years and won't officially end until next month. It was a disaster for farmers, but it has winegrowers rubbing their hands in glee as the big dry produced ideal grape growing conditions.

In Whangarei, Mario Vuletich said the weather was fantastic and had led to a dream run for his Longview Estate Winery.

"It was a relaxing, cruisey vintage. The labour maintenance was low because there was no vigorous growth," Mr Vuletich said.

The dry weather meant a lighter crop, but it led to an increased sugar concentration which gives the fruit a stronger flavour. The smaller fruit meant it took less time to ripen and there was very little stress on the vines.

"We harvested the fruit three weeks earlier than usual and I'm not complaining," he said.

Mr Vuletich said all wines produced from the 2013 harvest are going to be really good, with his 2013 White Diamond likely to be something special.

Monty Knight, managing director of Far North winery Okahu Estate, agrees that this year's harvest is the best yet.

"The 2010 vintage was really good, we had a drought that year too, but without exception this year will be the best vintage yet."

Okahu Estate, one of the northernmost vineyards, received a light rainfall over Christmas and in January which fattened the fruit. The fruit is now in the process of being barrelled, and Mr Knight said it will be left in the barrels a little longer than usual to give the oak a chance to match the heavy flavour of the fruit.

Mr Knight reckons all of the wines from Okahu Estate this year will be "fabulous", but keep a look out for the 2013 Okahu Estate Syrah.

Mr Gregan said nationally this year's harvest, which is significantly larger than the 2012 harvest, will stimulate export growth.

New Zealand wine is exported to more than 90 countries, with wine exports currently valued at $1.2 billion per annum.

- Northern Advocate

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