Rutherglen's early birds start picking | GALLERY

RUTHERGLEN winemakers began picking the first grapes of the year yesterday as growers anticipated a lower yield due to spring frosts.

But winemakers said the quality of the grapes was “very high”.

All Saints Estate vineyard manager Paul Heard was up at 3am yesterday with four other staff to begin the harvest at the Wahgunyah winery.

“We are about seven to 10 days ahead of last year,” he said.

“It’s due in part to the warm weather.

“We are just lucky we haven’t had bad wind with the heat, as it’s saved us from damage or further losses.”

Mr Heard said severe frosts in October would see volumes decreased.

“We are expecting volumes to be reduced but the quality is still very high,” he said.

This week’s heatwave and more hot temperatures predicted throughout February are not expected to have an impact on the grapes.

“We have all had to adapt our management,” he said.

“There are measures put in place like a good use of irrigation and canopy management to maintain good leaf cover over fruit.”

Winemakers of Rutherglen chairman Damien Cofield was happy there was no disease reported in the North East wineries.

“We will probably crush between 150 to 300 tonnes,” he said.

“About 150 tonnes of that will be for our brand and we will contract out the rest to other places.”

Mr Cofield said while the warm weather pushed forward the harvest, high temperatures in February were not a worry.

“Each year vineyards learn more from previous seasons,” he said.

“Agriculture is like that — you learn from every challenge and it makes you stronger.

“There are better management systems in place.”

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