The best grape harvest in years

SOME wineries in the New England Australia wine region are looking at their best grape harvest in years – but, for others, Mother Nature has destroyed their prospects.

What was looking like the best grape harvest in years for at least two wineries on the tablelands was obliterated in last Saturday’s widespread storm across the New England and North West.

Kurrajong Downs (nine kilometres east of Tenterfield) and Deetswood Wines, just north of Tenterfield, suffered severe hail damage.

Deetswood Wines owner Deanne Eaton, who is also the new president of the New England Wine Industry Association, said she was gutted.

“Very, very devastating – it’s the ultimate gamble being a farmer,” Mrs Eaton said.

She said the hailstorm had “completely wiped out” Kurrajong Downs’s five hectares planted to grapes.

Deetswood Wines’s two-and-a-half hectares of grapes had suffered major damage, too, and the harvest might not happen at all this year.

“We’re just assessing where we’re at ... we’re not sure whether to call it a day (on this year’s crop),” Mrs Eaton said.

She said “all the planning and preparation” could not stop the forces of nature if they decided to act. 

“But, before that, I would have to say it was looking like it was going to be one of the best years ever,” Mrs Eaton said.

Further south, Darryl Carter of Whyworry Wines, four kilometres west of Uralla, said he was contemplating his best harvest in four years.

“I reckon it’s the best season we’ve had for four years. And they’re not suffering with the heat: we haven’t had to water,” Mr Carter said.

“It’s a magnificent year – they haven’t even wilted in this hot weather. The grapes are thriving.

“We’ve had a bit of rain at the right time.”

His vineyard had 30mm of wine in total from the two storms on the weekend – one on Saturday evening and one on Sunday evening.

Temperature had also played a part in good ripening conditions.

“I think our crop temperature’s only been about 35 degrees. They like warmth: once they go over 30 they like it but, over 35 degrees celsius, they shut down and don’t produce the right sugars,” he said.

He said the New England normally had the perfect summer temperatures, as opposed to the lower country around Tamworth, because the tablelands’ temperature was usually around 23-24 degrees celsius.

“[In last week’s heatwave] we got to 35 but, at night, it was dropping down to about 15 degrees celsius – it’s been perfect up here,” Mr Carter said.

He said there had been “no disease pressures – not like last year: it was a bloody nightmare”.

“We haven’t got the biggest crop but I know I’ve got a crop that will ripen properly and the flavours will be stunning,” Mr Carter said.

The grapes were smaller than normal in size – which was good.

“We don’t want big grapes – we want little grapes so there’s more skin area for flavour.”

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