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Hunter Valley grape harvest off to late start after flood, hail but winemakers hope for quality vintage



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Hunter Valley winemakers say they by no means thought they’d begin harvesting in February, however there may be reduction all spherical with pickers out within the vineyards.

There have been fears for this yr’s classic after a extreme flood occasion within the area final July and a large January hail storm battered grapes proper earlier than harvest.

“That is most likely the newest begin that we have had that I can bear in mind,” stated skilled Agnew wines winery supervisor Shaune Flynn who has been taking care of the historic Audrey Wilkinson winery.

“We had a tough season and we thought we did fairly effectively to maintain the fruit in good high quality.

“Then unexpectedly we had a hail storm.

“There was a whole lot of variation on the injury performed, but it surely’s anyplace from 20 to 50 per cent crop loss at Audrey Wilkinson.”

A tractor in the vineyards.
A whole lot of tonnes of grapes will probably be harvested this month.(ABC Higher Hunter: Bindi Bryce)

Selecting often ramps up in early January, however the moist climate has persevered over the previous a number of months, delaying the harvest.

However Mr Flynn stated there could possibly be an upside.

“Generally that hail-damaged fruit can really make some nice wine as a result of there will be much less fruit on the vine so our flavours are presumably extra concentrated.

“Stranger issues have occurred. It is fairly attainable they will make some nice wine from it.”

A man empties a bucket of grapes into a container.
Chardonnay grapes being harvested on the Marsh Property.(ABC Higher Hunter: Bindi Bryce)

Acknowledgement of nation

Winemakers set a brand new custom this yr by beginning the harvest with a smoking ceremony and acknowledging Wonnarua individuals, the normal custodians of the Hunter Valley.

“With all of the dangerous occasions by the years, with COVID, the storms, the droughts and that, I may see the place they had been coming from,” elder Uncle Warren Taggart stated.

“They simply wanted some assist by our heritage.”

An Indigenous elder performs smoking ceremony in the vines
Warren Taggart on the Audrey Wilkinson winery.(ABC Information)

It was hoped the blessing of the vines would turn out to be an annual custom for each harvest.

“The smoking ceremony began with a cleaning to have everybody stroll by the smoke, so after they return to their very own wineries, they’re clear of all dangerous spirits,” Uncle Warren stated.

“I walked by the vines and requested our creator Baiame to look over these vines.” 

Brokenwood winemaker Kate Sturgess stated lots of of individuals attended the ceremony.

“To date it appears to have introduced us excellent luck, as a result of it hasn’t actually rained closely since, and we definitely have not had any extra hail,” she stated.

A young woman in a long-sleeved blue shirt smiles as she stands near vineyards.
Kate Sturgess is relieved the moist climate has cleared.(ABC Higher Hunter: Bindi Bryce)

A whole lot of fruit pickers, together with backpackers and retirees, have been out within the vineyards, beginning work early within the morning, and ending up earlier than the warmth units in.

“It is good to work outdoors. I desire it over the vineyard that is for positive,” stated picker Remy Thomas.

A young man in the vineyard with a bucket.
Remy Thomas, one of many youthful employees, loves serving to out with the harvest.(ABC Higher Hunter: Bindi Bryce)

Ms Sturgess stated she had been ready weeks to get began.

“You possibly can’t rush these items,” she stated.

“Mom Nature makes the choice and we simply want to verify we’re making the perfect wines.

“The whole lot is wanting actually promising up to now. I am simply excited to get it into the vineyard.”

Grape pickers with clouds in the background.
Winemakers are wanting ahead to some drier circumstances in 2023.(ABC Higher Hunter: Bindi Bryce)