Exceptional wine harvest for Central

Whether hand-picked or machine-harvested, Central Otago growers and winemakers are set to reap their full rewards for the 2022 vintage.

The potential for labor shortages was a pre-harvest concern, but reports indicate that most vineyards have enough workers to harvest the bumper crop, although several have called on friends and family to help. give a hand.

Seasonal Solutions Cooperative provides seasonal and permanent workers in the horticulture and viticulture sectors and is a major provider of workers on the Recognized Seasonal Employer Program.

General Manager Shaun Fogarty said the community has stepped up to help producers.

“Things are really tight and Covid hasn’t helped, but what’s really been fantastic is the support from the community,” he said.

Some vineyards have already finished harvesting, while Central Otago’s microclimates mean some grapes are still a week or more away from being ready, with a risk of frost this week.

At Toi Toi’s Clutha Vineyard on Wednesday, a two-man team from Mount Dunstan Estates was picking pinot noir grapes using a grape harvester, which shakes the fruit off the stalks.

Howard Marshall, a member of the vineyard crew, said the combine could pick up to 45 tonnes of fruit a day, and double that if operated at night.

He compared it to a day spent hand-picking at a nearby vineyard, where 35 pickers and three tractor drivers harvested 105 bins of whole bunches, or about 36,750 tons.

Mount Dunstan Estates vineyard manager Christine Rasmussen said the label’s own grapes from its Alexandra vineyard were not yet ready to be picked and they would be watching the weather closely with frosts expected this week. .

Meanwhile, at Grasshopper Rock in Earnscleugh, general manager Phil Handford joined workers from Estate Vineyard Management to hand-pick the grapes for the label’s pinot noir.

He said the vineyard was set up for hand picking and it allowed for a consistency of quality that isn’t always available with machine harvesting.

– By Tracie Barrett