[07 March/Stuff NZ]

Waikato’s largest winemaker Vilagrad has welcomed the Autumn heatwave, with their vines receiving more hours of sunshine and intense flavours developed in the grapes. According to Winemaker Jacob Nooyen, hot dry days and cold nights have resulted in the vineyard starting its harvest two weeks early. Hot days increase sugars in the fruit along with the cold nights helping the grapes retain a level of acidity. Mr Nooyen also reports that there is less disease pressure and that all varieties are ripe, allowing the team to pick whenever they would like to. Mr Nooyen also reported yields will be about 25 percent lower than previous years due to the wet November and December period affecting flower growth but that the quality of the fruit will make up for it. Given  there is less fruit on the vines, less needs to be ripened which results in more intense flavours which comes through into the wine. Horst Hillerich, Boutique Winemaker in Karangahake agrees with Mr Nooyen’s positive outlook, however says there are still a few weeks before harvest started for his grapes in Hawkes Bay and Marlborough.