You’ve seen heaps of ink on the HB apple harvest this season, with only an estimated 80-85% of available fruit picked, due to seasonal labour shortage exacerbated by Covid restrictions on overseas workers.
What about grapes?
Nationally, the grape harvest is also down, but more for weather reasons – cooler spring weather and late frosts in some wine regions.
National Business Review quoted one Marlborough winemaker – sourcing grapes widely from Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Central Otago and Marlborough – as follows:
“Our pinot gris was actually 32% below normal, our sauvignon blanc was 21% below normal. Our chardonnay out of Gisborne was 12% down and our Merlot out of Gisborne was nearly 27% down.”
According to Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers, total yields are only “marginally down” in our region. “Despite enduring a cool spell in November, Hawke’s Bay’s terroir diversity with over 25 different soil types and many mesoclimates, along with around 40 varietals grown, helped even out yields somewhat.”
Offsetting any quantity decline is the superior quality of this year’s vintage, continuing from recent seasons.
Say winemaker Tim Turvey, co-owner of Clearview Estate: “Yes, another stella vintage with many of us suggesting that it will rival last year’s vintage or be even better. In some cases our harvest of some varieties was almost a month ahead of previous years, but all flavours are totally intact with a great acid base and high sugar levels. It appears that chardonnay and later ripening reds (syrah, cabernets particularly) have benefitted mainly as we were under no weather pressures and could pick when we liked at optimum flavour levels.”
As for yield, Tim also pointed to the impact of a cooler Spring: “For us we had lower tonnages and in some cases almost half in some blocks, which could be a problem in years to come. Hopefully these lower tonnages are biennial and next year we pick back up – a lot of these lower tonnages correlated to a wet or cold flowering in Spring.”
As for getting the grapes picked: “We had no problems with handpickers, predominantly local people,” said Tim. Retiree picking crews, ‘pick parties’, community charity drives, neighbours, family and local wine lovers all played a hand in successfully bringing in the HB harvest this year. Lorraine Leheny of Bilancia praised her team, “We harvested our own vineyard utilising an amazing group of family and friends who heeded the call to secateurs and came in over five various picking days, including Easter weekend.”
Sally Duncan, Chair of Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers commented: “Hawke’s Bay is a fantastic part of New Zealand, and seeing how our community has come together makes me even prouder to be part of this special wine region.”