Whether hand-picked or machine harvested, Central Otago growers and winemakers look likely to harvest all of their fruit for the 2022 vintage.
The potential of labour shortages was a concern leading up to harvest, but reports are that most vineyards have sufficient workers to pick the bumper crop, although several have called in friends and family to lend a hand.
Seasonal Solutions Cooperative provides seasonal and permanent workers in the horticulture and viticulture industries and is a major provider of workers on the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.
Chief executive Shaun Fogarty said the community had been rallying around to help growers.
‘‘Things are really tight and Covid hasn’t helped, but what has really been fantastic is the support from the community’’, he said.
By Wednesday, April 6, some vineyards had already completed their harvest, while Central Otago’s micro›climates meant some grapes were still a week or more from being ready. There were a few predicted frosts throughout the week.
At Toi Toi’s Clutha vineyard, a two›man crew from Mount Dunstan Estates was picking pinot noir grapes using a machine harvester, which shakes the fruit off the stalks.
Vineyard crew member Howard Marshall said the machine harvester could pick up to 45 tonnes of fruit a day, and double that if operating at night.
He compared that to a day spent hand›picking on a nearby vineyard, where 35 pickers and three tractor drivers harvested 105 bins of whole bunches — about 36,750 tonnes.
As machine harvesting takes all the fruit from the vine, it was important to remove any diseased or unripe fruit before the harvester came through, Mr Marshall said.
Mount Dunstan Estates vineyard manager Christine Rasmussen said the label’s own grapes on its Alexandra vineyard were not yet ready to pick and they would be watching the weather closely as frosts were forecast.
Meanwhile at Grasshopper Rock in Earnscleugh, general manager Phil Handford joined workers from Estate Vineyard Management in hand›picking grapes for the label’s own pinot noir.
He said the vineyard was set up for hand picking and it allowed a consistency of quality not always available with machine harvesting.