With the grape harvest well underway around the Gisborne district, the season has been described as a beautiful one and the grape quality fantastic.

Gisborne winemaker James Millton says it is a vintage "beyond wildest dreams".

The harvest is nearly at the halfway point and the dry weather is helping grape growers - unlike pastoral farmers and other croppers.

Gisborne winegrowers president Doug Bell says the continuing good conditions have allowed growers and wineries to hold the crop on the vines longer.


"It means we can achieve maximum flavour and maturity.

"The dry conditions are a plus when it comes to the grape quality. It's helping the grapes ripen fully."

Holding the grapes on the vine longer does mean they tend to dehydrate a little, but that intensifies the flavours.

"You lose a little bit of grape weight, but it's the flavours that will make the vintage."

Tonnage-wise the crop is on a par with estimates. Some varieties are a little up, some a little down, he says.

Winemakers have all the options open to them this year.

"Some years the weather dictates harvesting but not this year."

No variety has been compromised by the weather, he says.

"The quality is fantastic. It's a beautiful season for winegrowers and I have not seen a season like it in 30 years as a grower.

"There is not the anxiety at harvest time this year. Everyone is a lot more relaxed about it."

"This will be a vintage to watch. It's very exciting.

"We are sympathetic to pastoral farmers and other croppers who are suffering from the dry conditions," Mr Bell says.

Indevin chief winemaker Steve Voysey says it is the best season he has experienced in nearly 30 years in the industry.

"I'm tasting flavours that are the best I've ever tasted.

"The fruit is also in absolutely perfect balance.

"Normally in a hot season you would lose your acid content in the grapes, but this year they are spot-on.

"It's one of those years that wine makers don't have to do anything," Mr Voysey says.

Vinoptima Estate manager Tom Recter believes this season is definitely as good, if not better than 2004.

"That was regarded as our best vintage."

The lovely dry, fine days are the key, and the warm breeze keeps the grape bunches dry, he says.

He expects the Vinoptima Estate harvest will start in two weeks.

Groco winemaker Anita Ewart-Croy sums it up in one word - it's a "glorious"season.

"The flavour and cleanliness of the fruit is absolutely outstanding."

James and Annie Millton say the vintage is better than anything that they could image in their wildest dreams.

"Last week we were predicting a vintage as good as l989 and l998, but since then it has gone to a whole new level.

"The sugars are getting to be right at the level we want and the resulting alcohols will be very well balanced.

"The sugar to acid basis is amazing and the grape pips are starting to develop nutty characters, which is highly sought after in winemaking because it enhances the antioxidants," Mr Millton says.

The ultimate success of the vintage lies in the hands of those who handle the grapes with passion and sensitivity.

"But this is definitely going to be a season of silk purses, unlike last year which was an absolute season of sows' ears."