Grape harvest has kicked off in the Clare Valley and despite a long, dry summer, vintage looks promising with predictions of average yields and high fruit quality.
Clare Region Winegrape Growers Association president Troy van Dulken said although it was early days, he remained confident it would be a good year for both growers and winemakers.
“We have only just started with some small picks of chardonnay and pinot gris, and it looks like a decent tonnage again this year, which is good considering the heat we’ve had over the spring and summer,” he said.
“Crop yields are probably down about 15 per cent on last year, but last vintage was massive so we are really looking at average yields, probably about 10 tonnes a hectare to 12t/ha for riesling while the reds might be down a little probably to average about 5t/ha to 6t/ha but the quality looks outstanding.”
“I am really pleased with the shiraz flavours, the hot and dry weather really helps with the flavour development. I think it is going to be a cracker year for reds.”
Mr van Dulken estimates harvesting of cabernet and grenache grapes could be about three to four weeks away, depending on the weather conditions, but quality also looks positive for these varieties.
“There won’t be any downward pressure on pricing this vintage, it will remain stable and supply and demand is in balance this year so there shouldn’t be too many growers who have had issues selling their fruit,” he said.
Clare Valley Winemakers Inc chair Andrew Pike has started picking at Pikes Wines, Polish Hill River, and is also optimistic about this year’s vintage.
“It has been a mixed bag this season as it has been hot and dry for a long time. We went into the season with less than a full tank in terms of water resources, dams didn’t recharge completely and soil moisture was less than we would normally like, but on the flipside, we have got through spring and early summer without any frost or disease issues,” Mr Pike said.
“Before Christmas we might have been looking at crop levels similar to the last two years, but that won’t be the case now due to the long, dry ripening period,” he said.
“While the bunch numbers might be there, berry size and berry and bunch weight will be down.”
Last year, the Clare Valley produced 32,000t of grapes but Mr Pike estimates a 10 per cent to 15pc reduction in the forecast yield with a total tonnage of about 28,000t predicted, depending on the seasonal conditions during the next six weeks.
Meanwhile, the amalgamation of the Clare Region Winegrape Growers Association and the Clare Valley Winemakers Inc is nearly complete. The new group, to be known as the Clare Valley Wine and Grape Industry Association, should be operational by the start of July.
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