Northland's winegrowers are savouring an exceptional season.
The 2020 drought conditions have allowed them to grow high-quality fruit and as this year's crop is being harvested around the region, winegrowers are almost apologetically excited.
Marsden Estate's wine maker Rod MacIvor says he feels sorry for farmers but the drought has made this year's harvest exceptional for fruit quality.
"We started so early, with bud burst in July and it's just gone on and on,'' he says. "It's been up to 34 degrees in the vineyard with no cloudy days. You couldn't ask for better conditions for growing grapes.''
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Marsden Estate processes grapes for almost all of the Northland vineyards from Kaitaia to Mangawhai, apart from The Landing which now has its own winery.
One of the first Northland vineyards to start harvesting was Omata Estate vineyard in Russell.
Manager Sarah Sclater says they have had an outstanding growing season and were probably the earliest to start harvesting in Northland, about two weeks earlier than normal.
About 2.5 tonnes of pinot gris has been handpicked and the fruit this year is high quality, she says.
Omata Estate, which was set up in 1990, has about 8000 syrah, chardonnay and pinot gris vines grown on clay slopes overlooking the Bay of Islands.
The estate's chardonnay and syrah varieties would be next to be picked, so Sarah is hoping the long summer will continue.
Omata Estate's wines are mostly sold in Northland through their cellar door and as well as through local restaurants and online.
MacIvor says Northland's wine business is growing steadily, with many more plantings going in and volume up to about 350 tonnes.
He expects the regional harvest to continue to grow to about 500 tonnes in the next five years.
"It's still a very small percentage of New Zealand's crush, and most of it stays in Northland. Wine tourism is an important part where visitors want to try local wines at Northland restaurants and cellar doors,'' he says.
"We're building a good reputation for good wine and Northland wines are now part of the tourist infrastructure.''
He says growers are all keen to get their grapes harvested while the hot summer weather continues.
MacIvor says winegrowers need another three or four weeks of good weather to get them through the harvest.
"It's been so dry that there is actually very little to do once the nets have gone on except wait for the grapes to mature nicely.''
MacIvor says as well as processing the commercial vineyards, Marsden Estate also processes grapes for many home vineyards.
"There is something very appealing about having your own vines and bottling your own wine for lifestyle block owners. It's actually modelled on a lot of parts of Europe where it is common to grow your own grapes and take them to the co-op to be bottled.''
The Landing winemaker Ben Byrne is looking forward to producing the first vintage in the new winery at the luxury private property on the Purerua Peninsula north-east of Kerikeri.
Previously Byrne produced The Landing wines with MacIvor at Marsden Estate until volumes became too much.
Byrne says all of the pinot gris and most of the chardonnay grapes have been picked and the reds will follow soon.
"It's been awesome. The quantity is down a bit but the quality is really good. We're loving this weather."
Since the original plantings in 2007, the vineyard has quadrupled its production. The architecturally designed winery was opened last year and there are plans to open a tasting room cellar door in late 2020 for small group visits by appointment.
Most of The Landing wines are sold in Northland, but the growth in production has meant the vineyard is now moving more nationwide with outlets in Queenstown, Wellington, Auckland, Tauranga and Hamilton.
"We'd like to grow enough to be able to export at some time in the future,'' Byrne says.