Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Mighty Fine Vintage

Robyn Drayton Wines 
I was lucky enough to spend another week in the Hunter Valley wineries picking truckloads of our beautiful produce for delivery just in time for the festive season.and summer holidays. Of course every time I visit the wineries I always pack my Sanyo S1275 camera, my camera of choice when on the road.

Lindemans Wines
Now I have been doing this work on and off now, depending on the rosters, for a number years and I have seen the vineyards displaying every aspect of viticulture through every type of season. From the autumn hues to the starkness of winter vines, to the new growth in spring and to the picking of the harvest in late summer. I have also witnessed the vagaries of the Australian weather, from dams that have run dry in drought and where the only moisture comes from the sweat of the farmers brow,  through to total inundation of the land, where at times the ground becomes so soaked that the ground turns to a glutinous clay bog, where fruit becomes bloated and ruined on the vine due to the inability to harvest .

Out all those visits, over all those years, I have never seen the wineries of the Hunter Valley looking so lush and green. Late spring rains have turned bare winter vines into row upon row verdant fields of what could be another stunning vintage for the Hunter Valley region.

With the fruit now set on the vines, every Hunter Valley vintner is eyeing off the long range weather forecasts to assess when will be the best time to harvest the vintage, which traditionally in the Hunter Valley  is around February/March. However, every year brings new challenges, because the grapes have to have the perfect balance between sugars and acids, it is a combination of local knowledge, science, skill and a lot of luck. Miss the harvest by a day or two and the crop for the year is ruined. This why the vintners are worried, the long range forecast is for a wet summer and for an extremely wet February, right in the middle of harvest season. If it is too wet the wineries can't use the mechanical harvesters and have to rely on skilled teams of fruit pickers to manually bring in the bulk of the harvest which increases the cost of production and reduces wineries margins. A testing time ahead for these skilled artisans of the land.

However, for the casual visitor, now is a great time to visit the wineries, to taste the special wines from the Hunter Valley, eat some of the best food from some of our top restaurants and soak up the wonderful vista of green that is laid out before you at every winery (remembering to pack your camera!). Life doesn't get much better than this!

The only people that will have a worried look on their faces will be the vintners as they ponder, the age old dilemma that faces every farmer, no matter what the crop .... when to harvest. 

Ivanhoe Estate

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