14 Mar 2017

East Coast deluge threatens grape harvest

8:42 am on 14 March 2017

Wet weather is jeopardising this year's grape crop, Gisborne winegrowers say.

Doug Bell and his wife Delwyn

Doug Bell and his wife Delwyn Photo: Supplied

After suffering through near-drought conditions a month ago, some parts of the east coast of the North Island have had 200 millimetres of rain fall in the past month.

Gisborne Winegrowers Association spokesperson Doug Bell said the heavy rain was causing problems for crops that were ready to pick and was setting the harvesting schedule back.

The rain also reduced grape quality, Mr Bell said.

"The vines take up water from the ground and the sugar levels are diluted as are some flavours," he said.

"It's not ideal. We wouldn't harvest in the rain but there was a big rush to get crops just prior to the rain, and [for] those crops that were able to stand the rain and come out the other side, there will be a rush to get them off before disease sets in."

It was disappointing for wine growers.

"We find that the week prior to harvest effectively is when our salary is being established. So it's very frustrating having put all the costs into a crop a week before harvest effectively to get this weather pattern - nothing positive comes out of it," Mr Bell said.

"Just a lot more work to carry out in rather panic mode."

Part of the challenge was psychological, he said.

"It's the frustration and disappointment in terms of not getting what was appearing to be beautiful fruit... There's this enormous risk that if it doesn't clear and harvest is further delayed then the grapes continue to deteriorate.

"There's some hard calls to be made - it means that some of the wine might not make some of the very top end products."

New technology allowed grapes to be processed quickly once they were picked and the flavour could usually be retained.