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This past summer has seen a bumper harvest of grapes, which will be a boon for the demands of the wine industry, New Zealand Winegrowers announced today.

However, figures for the Hawke's Bay were down from 2007, with indifferent weather on the North Island's East Coast the primary reason.

In all, 285,000 tonnes of grapes were harvested in 2008, up 39 per cent on last year, according to Winegrowers' 2008 Vintage Survey. The increase is because more land has been planted with grapes and growing conditions have been favourable in most regions over the summer months, said the association.

New Zealand Winegrowers CEO, Philip Gregan, said nature had delivered an unexpected bounty this time around.

"The increase in the 2008 harvest is principally linked to the rise in the production of Sauvignon Blanc. Significant production rises were also recorded for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, both of which are enjoying strong export sales. The Chardonnay harvest was smaller than 2007.

"The increased harvest is a real opportunity to grow sales in new and existing export markets in the year ahead towards our target of $1 billion of exports by 2010."

Regionally, Marlborough produced 195,000 tonnes of grapes in 2008, up 61 per cent from 121,000 tonnes in 2007. However, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay regions were down 8 per cent and 18 per cent respectively, due to a combination of frosts and cooler weather at flowering.

Other regional increases included Central Otago up 177 per cent, Wairarapa up 111 per cent, Waipara up 304 per cent, Canterbury up 304 per cent and Nelson up 35 per cent. In most cases these changes reflect a rebound to target levels after weather reduced crops in 2007.