The pick of the crop

GRAZIERS and gardeners may be praying for rain but Charles Sturt University (CSU) viticulturist Geoff Cook is one man who is hoping the wet weather does not stick around.

The vineyard kicked off the harvest of this year’s vintage on Tuesday night, with contractors working until midnight to pick about 20 tonnes of chardonnay grapes and transport them to Wagga Wagga for processing into the winery’s sparkling wine.

“The picking went exceptionally well,” Mr Cook said.

“We’ve had a good yield and it has been a really good season.

“We’ve had no diseases, all the grapes are clean.”

A dry spring and warm early summer has seen picking start at least a week earlier than scheduled, with harvesting usually not starting until late February and continuing until mid-April.

“The vines are in a really good condition because we didn’t have any problems with the weather,” Mr Cook said.

“The grapes have ripened a lot quicker, which means there’s not as much acid in the grapes this year.

“The winemaker will have to make some adjustments.”

Mr Cook expects other varieties to also come off the vine earlier, meaning the season could be wrapped up by the last week of March when the cabernet grapes are picked.

“We test them all the time by taste and analysis, but we mainly pick on flavour,” he said.

About 2.5 of the 4.5 hectares of chardonnay was picked on Tuesday and the remaining grapes will be used for the label’s table wine when they are picked in the next couple of weeks.

Mr Cook estimates the leftover vines will yield about 18 to 20 tonnes of chardonnay grapes.

The next varieties to be picked will be semillon blanc or pinot gris depending on the weather.

Despite 2013 looking like a good year for CSU’s wines, Mr Cook said the final taste will be anyone’s guess.

“It’s in the lap of the gods,” he said.

“But we should be able to get good sugar levels and flavour.”

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