Grapes left for maximum flavour
Hectic schedule: Allan Scott Wines managing director Allan Scott does his best to get grape harvesting equipment up and running after a morning breakdown during vintage, the wine industry's busiest period of the year
Marlborough wineries are experiencing a short and sharp vintage with lighter yields, which owners expect will stabilise the industry and bring wine prices back up.
Allan Scott Wines winemaker Bruce Abbott said they were hoping to get this year's vintage wrapped up in 14 days. Harvesting had been "short and compact", beginning on April 10.
A lower yield than previous years had meant there was no pressure to get the fruit in.
Grapes were left on the vines for longer, allowing for maximum ripening and flavour development, which had also been helped along by good weather during the past two weeks.
"We're really pleased with the quality, it's the best thing that's ever happened," Mr Abbott said.
Instead of worrying about what to do with a grape surplus, Mr Abbott said he had the time to concentrate on winemaking, refining his technique to create premium wines.
Halfway through vintage, 500 tonnes had been harvested, about 300 tonnes less than the same time last year, Mr Abbott said.
Allan Scott Wines owner and managing director Allan Scott said the smaller harvest was a change of philosophy for the company. It is shifting its focus to using fruit sourced solely from the family estate to produce premium wines.
This year's lighter vintage would stabilise the industry, Mr Scott said.
Goldwater Estate owner Peter Scutts said its vintage had run one week shorter than the usual three weeks. Harvesting began on April 3 and would be finished before Saturday.
Yields were dramatically down throughout the industry – two thirds of the way through harvest, Goldwater Estate had harvested 1000 tonnes less than last year – but this was positive, Mr Scutts said.
A surplus in previous years had dragged down the average selling price of sauvignon blanc around the world, but lower yields would bring prices up again.
"The industry is just going through another change, and we will come out stronger at the other end."
Foxes Island owner and winemaker John Belsham said its vintage began last Thursday, and would finish on Monday, a few days short of the usual three weeks.
An 11-day vintage was no concern, especially with the good run of weather. "Its been rather fabulous, the fruit is beautiful and clean and yields are down. It's been the easiest vintage in many, many years," Mr Belsham said.
"The reality is, we make wine every year. From a commercial point of view, business is what happens week to week, and as an agricultural business we have years where yields are up a bit, and we have years where yields are down a bit."
Harvesting had been easier, with less pressure on resources and equipment, he said.
The latest start to the vintage had been towards the end of April in 1993. That growing season had been similar to this year, with cool weather and a small crop, but it would not match the high quality of fruit from this year's vintage.