Much of the life pulse of Central Otago beats with those in the agriculture and horticulture industries, who define their year as much by the jobs being done as by the calendar month or date.

For vineyard workers, last month’s big job was netting the vines, following which staff have been keeping an eagle eye on the weather as the grapes ripen and the sugars develop for harvest.

Protecting the fruit . . .RSE worker Matthew Stephen positions the net over the fruiting zone of the vine. Another team of workers follow behind clipping the nets in place.

McArthur Ridge vineyard manager Murray Petrie manages 120ha of vines on the label’s Alexandra property, assisted by 11 full-time staff, up to 20 workers on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and up to 15 casuals as needed throughout the year.

He said staff numbers last year were “actually quite good”.

“We had a lot of Kiwis who put their hands up to work.”

This year, his casual staff had mainly been university students, some coming from Christchurch or Wellington to join the team.

Housekeeping . . . vineyard manager Murray Petries beside a trimmer used to remove excess leaf canopy before the vines are netted.

The vineyard was also back to pre-Covid numbers of RSE workers, he said.

McArthur Ridge used two types of netting to prevent fruit loss and damage by different bird types.

Side nets were used to safeguard the fruit from starlings, while overhead nets were added to rows particularly prone to being visited by small birds such as finches and sparrows.

Complementing the nets were gas gun bird-scarers and employees with shotguns also tasked to scare birds off.

Bird pressure was increasing due to more farming and cropping in the local area, and starlings were particularly wasteful, stripping the fruit with their feet and leaving it lying on the ground, Mr Petrie said.

“They can be vicious.”

The fruit looked promising this year and, weather permitting, the 2022 harvest could bring more awards for the label.

Going for gold . . . McArthur Ridges Brassknocker Pinot Noir 2020 and Lilico Pinot Rose 2021 are among the label’s gold medal winners.

The McArthur Ridge Southern Tor Central Otago Pinot Noir 2020 and Lilico Rose 2021 won gold medals in the New Zealand International Wine Show 2021, and the label’s Brassknocker Pinot Noir 2020 won gold in the New World Wine Awards.

Now the nets are on, harvest will take place in about six weeks and Mr Petrie said he hoped the region’s “Indian summer” would continue until then.

“Nice warm days and cool nights is perfect for pinot noir,” he said.