Hawke's Bay's chardonnay harvest season has not only begun weeks ahead of the usual season, but is also "exceptional".
Esk Valley/Villa Maria Group began the chardonnay harvest on February 22, at least two weeks earlier than usual.
Some other vineyards started even earlier.
Esk Valley senior winemaker Gordon Russell said for Hawke's Bay chardonnay grapes, it's "the earliest we've ever harvested".
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"Right across the board this is the earliest harvest I think any of the winemakers can ever recall.
"You'd have to go right back to 1989 to find a harvest similar."
The harvest was also early last year, but is even earlier this year with the general consensus that a relatively warm winter, early spring and dry summer contributed to the early ripening.
"It's just like the whole season has shifted forward a few weeks."
Russell said many winemakers would say the harvest ordinarily would begin in the first week of March.
This year's and last year's harvest were both "exceptional harvests" and the early harvest means they can pick the fruit before colder autumn weather gets in.
"I've been making wine now for 30-plus years and people are often used to me saying this is the best harvest yet, but this chardonnay harvest is absolutely spectacular, the grapes are in pristine condition, they are blessed with amazing acidity to accompany really ripe sugars."