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Column: Never mind our tans, we prefer sun on our grapes

This sensational high, which has brought several days of settled weather and should bring settled weather well into the coming week, is doing something that the highs so far this year failed to do: linger.

Highs have come and gone like cold fronts, but this one is a classic high: slow moving, long lasting, and will be slow to retire out to the east.

Many of us consider 2012 to be the year without a summer, and none more so than Murray Paterson from Vinifera Services in Marlborough.

One of our most famous wine growing districts, Marlborough was hit by the poor summer, and grape crops could be down by a quarter next season.

Paterson says spring was cool and therefore vine growth was slowed.

“Late November and up to December 15 temperatures were cool, which delayed the plant cycle by between 10 and 14 days and extended the fertilisation over a period of 14 to 20 days,” he said.

“This period is essential for pollination and warm temperatures are needed – so fewer flowers were fertilised, with a consequent lowering of potential crop in pinot noir and sauvignon.

“Regionally, things have been quite erratic. Those sub-regions in cooler areas are less affected as they caught warmer days over flowering. Overall, the season has been delayed approximately 10 days later than we have had for five or six years.”

Of course, the weather we receive each season makes a difference to how the wine will taste. Murray says the flavour quality appears to be good, and disease has not been as much of a problem as was feared.

But the poor weather for vineyards will cause problems next season.

“I estimate that crops will be reduced next season by up to 25 per cent, the result of the cool weather in early December, by comparison to the bumper years between 2008 and 2011. It is important to keep this in perspective. This reduction will bring us back to crops close to the long-term average. So it’s not a disaster for the industry, though it may be difficult for individual growers.”

Over the next two weeks, grape growers hope to get more stable, dry conditions as they look to harvest beyond Anzac Day.

– By Philip Duncan

– Philip Duncan writes a weekly column for the Herald on Sunday


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