THE Shoalhaven wine harvest is under way, with a number of local growers estimating a downturn in returns after the recent fluctuating weather conditions.
Cellar door manager at Coolangatta Estate Wines Ben Wallis said Verdelho and sauvignon varieties were harvested earlier in the week.
“We are happy with our returns so far however we are down on a typical vintage,” he said.
“It is still very early days in the harvest and it will run through until the end of March so we don’t really know at this stage how much we will be down.
“We had a lighter fruit set in late spring and early summer so we knew we weren’t going to get a bumper crop and that can be a seasonal variation, some seasons you get big crops and some season you don’t.
“The last couple of years have been light.
“But we have been delighted with the quality we have picked and the feedback from the winemakers is that they are very happy with what we are sending through.
“We are now watching the semillon crop and the chardonnay and the reds and should be harvesting them soon as well.
“It has been encouraging that some of our alternative varieties like sauvignon and tannat and tempranillo, which aren’t grown widely in Australia, are really looking good.”
He admitted the extreme temperatures of recent weeks had affected some varieties.
“The rain turned out to be a blessing, it certainly freshened things up and the good news was we didn’t receive as much as the higher initial forecasts,” he said.
At Two Figs Winery at Back Forest, harvest is also under way with the chardonnay picked over the weekend and the cabernet set to be harvested in the next three weeks.
Assistant wine maker Joel Frendin said the current season is looking good.
“The yield is slightly down on last year but I think that can be put down to the lack of rain in the middle of the year,” he said.
“We have been running our sugar and acid tests through the growing season and we have been happy with our results.”
At the Cambewarra Estate Winery harvesting was due to start Sunday.
Owner Louise Cole said harvesting is off to a slower start than normal due to the recent rain.
“We were put back by the recent rain and our mechanical harvester required a service so we will start picking Sunday,” she said.
Mrs Cole is expecting at least a 10 per cent reduction in quantity this year after the recent scorching 40 plus degree days as well as the rain.
“We lost quite a bit of fruit on that scorching 46 degree day and then we had the rain which didn’t help,” she said.
“I’d say we will definitely be down about 10 per cent, possibly even more but we will have to wait and see and assess it once we get the fruit off.
“Life on the land is always challenging.
“The fruit that is there looks good and we are keen to get it off.”
Mrs Cole said the winery had cut back the verdelho production as they were doing some regeneration work, while the chardonnay, chamboucin and cabernet sauvignon were all in full production.
Over at Jaspers Brush Raj Ray at the Silos Estate will be starting harvesting this week.
“We have a different micro climate to the wineries on the coast, we are closer to the escarpment and we tend to harvest a little later than others,” he said.
“The harvest looks quite good despite the tough series of weather events we have had with those two extreme days of heat and then the recent rains.
“We will be harvesting the malbec that no-one else grows in the Shoalhaven as well as sauvignon blanc which is not widely grown either.
“We also have the semillon, chardonnay and cabernet which the Shoalhaven is so well known for to also be harvested.
“Our returns should be about 70 per cent of our crop which is pretty good considering the recent weather conditions.”
Crooked River Winery at Gerringong has also started its harvest and over the next two weekends will be staging its annual stomping of the grapes.