Wines doing fine despite the heat

THE recent heatwaves across the region don't appear to have affected grapes too badly in the Coonawarra region.

About a week away from veraison - the onset of the grapes ripening - Coonawarra Grape and Wine Incorporated president Allen Jenkins was optimistic.

This was despite a cooler than normal period over November and early December which followed a wetter October.

"Because it was so cold the yields are looking more moderate," he said.

"But because the yields are so moderate that actually helped us get through the heat."

Mr Jenkins said not much irrigation had been required before the hot week earlier this month - thanks to the wet and cool conditions earlier combined with there being less fruit requiring water.

Although remaining positive, Mr Jenkins said there were some ill-effects of the mercury rising.

"There is a bit of damage around but it's not across the board," he said. "Generally most of Coonawarra has come out of the heat extremely well."

Vines in shallow soil and older vines with Eutypa - a fungus which hinders the transporting of water from the roots to the fruit - were among those affected by the heat.

Mr Jenkins said access to the good quality groundwater around Coonawarra was crucial.

Despite the moderate yields Mr Jenkins said he was very optimistic the quality would make up for it - comparing this year to the 2009 season which had similar conditions.

Mr Jenkins said the bulk of the grape harvest would ideally be done before Anzac Day to beat the opening rains in late April.

Further north at Wrattonbully things are also progressing well.

Wrattonbully Wine Industries Association chairman James Freckleton said some varieties such as Pinot Gris and Chardonnay are just starting to colour.

He credited the access to a good water source as a reason the heatwave didn't leave his region too affected.

"The weaker vines were burnt a bit and there's a little bit of foliage burn here and there but it's not much of a problem," Mr Freckleton said.

"The winter rains carried into spring which sets up the canopies really well - that helped with the heat."

Despite this, a long and windy flowering period had made a mark on some parts.

"It's been a poor setting year for Cabernet and Merlot," Mr Freckleton said.

"Yields are down by as much as half of what they were going to be.

"Quality is not going to be an issue but it's disappointing yields are down, which impacts the growers."

On the bright side he said yields being down should not affect the winemakers, and vineyards will save money on thinning crops - which in recent years they have had to do.

Harvest is looking to be a little later than the past few years at Wrattonbully, at a more traditional time.

"We've been harvesting early for the past five or so years," Mr Freckleton said.

"It's looking to be closer to March this year...it depends on weather really."

He said things will look to be wrapped up around Easter time.

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