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Nelson Region Rainfall

While the heavy rains and flooding in Nelson that destroyed homes and land just before Christmas last year was headline news the impact on the wine grape growing sector has yet to be fully determined.

Rainfall statistics show some of the heaviest rain in parts of the region since records began with Nelson Airport recording six times its mean rainfall for December – 446mm while in Takaka about 1100mm of rain fell – more than 8 times its normal December total.

City residents got to feel like they were living in Auckland with the closure of one of the main arterial roads into the city for more than a week, resulting in a normal 15 minute drive taking up to three hours and the horticulture sector (particularly market gardeners) having to deal with flood damaged crops.

A photo published in The Nelson Mail showing people walking through a flooded vineyard was a dramatic visual reminder of just how much rain we had and while it probably made many winegrowers hearts sink just a little the effects of the rain on the 2012 vintage are still only best estimates at this stage.

With the main rainfalls occurring over a few days the impact of the rain on flowering and fruit-set was limited. Reports from across the region indicate the hardest hit variety is Gewurztraminer with most growers spoken to expecting no crop this year. Grape berry growth known has ‘hen and chicken’ appears as big and small grapes on each bunch. This is quite normal for the Mendoza clone of chardonnay but its occurrence in other varieties is both unusual and unwanted because the individual grapes will have different ripeness levels at harvest time and this has the potential to effect flavour profiles of the finished product.

The impact of the big wet on other varieties is very much location dependant with vineyards in some areas expecting a harvest at either near normal levels or down 20% – 40%, again dependant on how far through flowering the varieties were when the rains hit each vineyard.

Because of dangerous wet, slippery conditions on some sloping vineyards growers were unable to get equipment onto some vineyards to get disease control sprays on their vines and this has lead to some high labour costs as growers resorted to manually trimming the vigorous canopy growth to help dry the sodden bunches. One grower even resorted to using a helicopter to apply some anti-fungal sprays.

Those who were able to manage their vineyards intensely before, during and after individual rain events appear to be mainly disease free however some are reporting outbreaks of mildew in vineyards and, depending on whether or not these outbreaks can be controlled, this will also have an effect on the size and quality of the 2012 grape harvest in this region.

So it looks like this grape harvest is going to be below average in size in the Nelson region and quality is going to be highly dependent on weather patterns over the next few months. No more rain and lots of long hot days until mid May are at the top of every grower’s wish lists for 2012.

I have been drinking

Kaimira Estates has put together a deal where you can buy two $12.99 wines from their Brightside range for just $20 the pair. This deal is available at Fresh Choice Richmond and Takaka
Brightside 2011 Sauvignon Blanc – RRP$12.99
Vibrant fresh tropical flavours of passionfruit with a twist of lime are supported by firm river-stone minerality characters making it the perfect budget wine to enjoy with seafood off the barbecue this summer.
Brightside 2011 Rosé – RRP$12.99
Made from a blend of merlot and pinot noir the beautiful pale raspberry colour hints at the luscious creamy flavours of the wine. Fermentation in oak barrels adds texture to the mouthfeel and lets the blueberry and currant flavours shine. This is a serious wine for the price point and won’t disappoint rosé lovers.

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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