For veteran winemakers like Gordon Russell, who conceded he had seen "a few seasons now", it was what was in the air which was currently working away at the 2019 Hawke's Bay wine vintage.

Russell, who is chairman of the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association, said at this point of the vintage emergence, heat and humidity were having the main say.

Those factors had, effectively, created a lot of work as they encouraged upper vine canopy growth so leaf trimming and plucking was to the fore.

"It means a lot of extra work but at this stage it is all looking good," Russell said, before adding (with a smile) some vintage advice.


"Everything looks very promising — but come back to me in a month."

What it annually came down to was what happened in late summer and the early autumn.

"We were a bit behind schedule going up to Christmas but it has been very good since."

The recent belts of rain had been no issue as they meant less dependence on another labour pursuit — irrigation.

Russell said he had speaking with several viticulturists recently and they said flowering had gone well — better than they anticipated — and in terms of volumes, 2019 looked to be "a reasonable crop".

Merlot was looking good and cabernet was also doing well as the berries were small.

The more moisture they took in the more puffy they would get.

Smaller, in terms of taste, was better.


Mission Estate viticulturist Steve Wheeler echoed Russell's comments in terms of the best time to get the best handle on how the 2019 vintage would emerge.

"Yeah, call me in a month," he said.

He also echoed the humidity and moisture factor as it meant vine maintenance was constant and work crews were busy.

"Rain does create more work but at this stage yes, it all looks good — so fingers crossed."

In terms of the long range forecast, the viticulturists will be happy as the low pressure system which brought three days of showers and rain is on the move.