IT’S harvest time in the Shoalhaven with local vineyards starting to pick grapes for their next vintage.
There is talk of a bumper season, the favourable local weather conditions contributing to a top quality crop.
At Coolangatta Estate the first day of harvest was completed on Thursday with owner Greg Bishop saying grape quality was excellent.
It was so good in fact that picking of the first two acres of the verdelho variety was completed in near record time, reaping an estimated 6.8 tonnes of grapes.
“It’s always good to get the first pick of the season off,” he said.
“Things are looking good for a strong season.
“The quality of the grapes is fantastic and that makes picking so much easier.
“The conditions have led to a great season: we are picking about a week earlier than last year.
“The yield is also up considerably.”
But he says they are also mindful of what might lie ahead with the weather.
“February is our biggest month with harvesting. It is also one of the area’s most volatile months for weather and that can sometimes produce our largest rainfall,” he said.
“We just hope that the rains will stay away for a few more weeks at least to get the whole harvest in.”
The remaining acre of verdelho should be harvested next week, with work also set to start on the semillon and other vines, while picking the reds is still a few weeks away.
Picking at Coolangatta is expected to be staged on 10 days over the next six weeks.
Just under 50 pickers took part in Thursday morning’s harvest, including 17-year-old Robert Whittaker, who has now been part of the harvest team for three years.
“It’s not hard work, anyone can do it,” the youngster said.
“It’s good fun. I need to raise some money for an Outward Bound course and this is a good way to do it.”