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Agriculture stories

Weather shrinks 2017 vintage

Edition 183_Moores_Hill

Tasmania's 2017 vintage will take a significant hit following unkind weather in the lead-up to the picking season.

The total grape harvest is predicted to be 10,000 tonnes, a big drop from 15,000 tonnes in 2016.

The Chief Executive of Wine Tasmania, Sheralee Davies, told Food & Wine Writer, Graeme Phillips, in April: "We've had humidity when we didn't expect humidity; we've had rain when we didn't expect rain; and we've had late frosts.

"So it's been a very, very challenging year."

Phillips commented in The Mercury: "The year was only saved by the ripening sun and warmth of March which continued in the weeks running up to Easter.

"By late April there were only a few cabernet, shiraz and merlot grapes still on the vines."  

May saw the completion of the vintage.

Ms Davies said: "The  ... focus for us is always around quality, more so than quantity, and the reports that are coming in around quality are strong."

Growers in the north bore the brunt of the disappointing conditions.

"In the Pipers River and the Tamar Valley area, yields look like they're going to be slightly down, and that's a result of that cooler weather at the time of flowering, a little bit more disease pressure," Ms Davies said.

"On the east coast and in the southern part of the State the weather was a bit more stable at the time of fruit set."

Pooley Wines in the Coal Valley region is one producer expecting an above-average yield.

Viticulturalist Matt Pooley said both his yields and quality were high.

"Soil moisture and air temperature, and you know, even a record dry March period has been just fantastic.

"We're really set for, and experiencing now, really good results."

The co-owner of Moores Hill Vineyard, in the Tamar Valley, Fiona Weller, told the ABC the season had been "tough".

"We had a very wet spring and then cool temperatures early on in summer so that sort of confused the vines a bit," she said.

"Growth was behind what it should be."

The uncertain weather has not deterred investment in the industry.

Moores Hill recently installed a multi-million-dollar on-site processing facility powered by 108 solar panels, making it Tasmania's first off-the-grid winery.

Winery Director, Tim High, said: "It's off the grid in terms of electricity; it's off the grid in terms of water; it's off the grid in terms of effluent."

Ms Weller said the processing facility would be opened to visitors as a tourist attraction.

Pooley Wines is one of a number of producers that have recently planted more vines to meet buoyant demand.

Ms Davies told the ABC such investment was a State-wide trend.

"There's been quite a substantial amount of new plantings that have gone in just in the last couple of seasons.

"We think it's double digit growth just in vineyard area," she said.

"We're also seeing people moving into Tasmania to either purchase a vineyard or indeed ... to set up a brand new vineyard.

"Then we've got people looking to grow their cellar doors, to change the experience and to expand the experience that people have."

 Image courtesy of the ABC

1 May 2017, Edition 183

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