GRAPES are ripening earlier than usual in the Orange region, with some vignerons claiming to be experiencing an exceptional season.
Orange Mountain Wines owner Terry Dolle said his harvest could finish up to four weeks early, with overall good quality grapes, but he wanted dry, mild conditions to continue.
“Because we are just Orange grapes we haven’t really got into it,” he said.
“We’ve only had sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, the quality has been really good so far. Everything that’s coming through and the analysis on the vines suggests it’s going to be two to three weeks early.
“Normally we don’t get our last grapes until May, that’s because we pick shiraz from a very cool vineyard at Borenore. It could finish at the end of March - four weeks early.”
Mr Dolle said vines shut down when it got too hot, but without major heatwaves to interfere with grape development, and with good winter conditions, the vines were healthy.
“The vines are in really good shape because there was a lot of soil moisture over winter. If you have a nice big healthy vine it will ripen the grapes much easier,” he said.
However, heavier-than-average rainfall is starting to have an effect on some vineyards that are getting too much moisture.
“We are starting to see a little bit of disease present, a few vineyards are starting to get some botrytis,” Mr Dolle said.
He says it is not a big issue at the moment and, because the grapes are handpicked, the diseased grapes are not gathered for winemaking.
James Sweetapple from Cargo Road Wines said he was also having a great season and was very happy with what he had picked so far.
“Last night I picked some gewurztraminer, which was in excellent condition,” he said.
“It’s going to mean some excellent wine.”