Vignerons optimistic about harvest

GRAPE growers are on track for a good harvest with grapes free from disease despite lower than average rainfall for this time of year.

The 21.4mm of rain that fell on Christmas Day came just at the right time for vignerons, many of whom are managing their irrigation to fit in with the weather conditions that  show rainfall in the Orange and district  in the past 12 months is down 150mm on the previous year.

Vigneron Tom Ward of Swinging Bridge said last week’s rain following a few days of temperatures in the early 30s was good timing.

“We received 14mm and other growers received up to 24 mm but what growers are increasingly recognising is that production now has such a strong emphasis on carbon levels in the soil, but the rain was perfect,” he said.

Mr Ward said more rain would be welcome but it wouldn’t affect quantities.

“Flowering is complete and the buds are beginning to form well although the size will be smaller,” Mr Ward said.

“To put it in easier terms it [grape size] is like a 14-year-old being the size of a 12-year-old,” he said.

Mr Ward said a bonus for grape growers working towards high quality yields is the below-average temperatures at night combined with the summer temperatures experienced so far during the day.

He says growers who have done extensive work on their soils around the base of their vines, including mulching, are reaping rewards with their fruit quality, with up to 95 per cent of growers now using irrigation.

Although the current glut continues to impact on the industry, David Cumming of Define Wine says Orange wines have plenty going for them in the competitive market, including a strong price point of between $15 and $20 that is appealing to buyers.

“Websites are much improved and people can buy online, there are more cellar doors open and our wine quality is not as hit and miss as it used to be,” he said.

Mr Cumming said another positive was the continuing support of restaurants who are stocking Orange wines and the recognition by distributors of the growing reputation of local wines.

He said Orange’s positive outlook for grape growers had been a long, hard road.

“Orange started coming good when the wine glut hit but if this was the 1990s it would be different but we are continually looking at ways to get ahead,” Mr Cumming said.

Patina owner and winemaker Gerald Naef usually harvests a couple of weeks later than other growers but is also optimistic about the season.

He says efficient management by growers of the canopy load (leaf coverage) is pivotal to good production.

“If there are too many shoots then it doesn’t allow the light in and that’s why shoot thinning is really important,” he said.

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