Winemakers switch it up
A colder than expected summer and the late April rain caused by Cyclone Cook resulted in vineyard owners across the Waitaki District to switch their approach this year.
Conditions drove one winemaker to guard a vineyard for an entire day with a shotgun in hand, and forced one Waitaki company to experiment by making new kinds of wines.
Waitaki Valley Wine Growers Association chairman Andrew Ballantyne said multiple wine growers in the Waitaki Valley harvested early when they heard of the late April rains, and now have some pretty good batches fermenting in oak barrels.
However, there was a significant period of uncertainty during the late April and early May harvest period.
Ballantyne told the story of one particularly intense period of work, where 8.6 tonnes of grapes were picked by only 8 workers, who toiled from 7am to 7pm on May 1.
Ballantyne described the day’s work, which took place on a Grants Road property, as a ‘‘preemptive’’ strike against a second front of autumn rains
‘‘Any longer in the rain, and there would of been deterioration (of the grapes),’’ he said.
Other weather conditions bought by the cyclone meant additional challenges for Ballantyne and his team.
‘‘One of our vineyards had gale force winds, it blew off all our nets,’’ Ballantyne said.
Drastic times meant drastic measures.
‘‘I sat around with a shotgun for a day to scare off the birds.’’
Ostler Wines manager Jim Jerram said the harvest was difficult, and challenging.
‘‘We got the very tail end of Cyclone Cook, yields are down,’’ he said.
However, once the harvest was completed in early May, the winemakers at Ostler Wines did the best with what they had.
Experimentation was the order of the day, with a bunch of new wines being made.
Ostler Wines ended up producing some new wines this year, including a batch of Methode Champagnios (Champagne style wine).
Ballantyne said things weren’t going badly, everything considered.
‘‘Harvest was bad, but the wine’s still good.
‘‘The proof is in the pudding.’’
Waitaki Valley Wine Growers Association chairman Andrew Ballantyne guarded a vineyard with a shotgun in May, so birds did not eat the wine grapes.