In what many are saying will be the toughest season ever, North Canterbury winemakers are almost a month into the 2022 grape harvest. The region has been preparing for a challenging harvest with Omicron on its doorstep.
"Our grapes won’t wait for Covid, so we are doing everything we can to protect ourselves and ensure we can remain operational," noted North Canterbury Winegrowers Association chairman and Greystone Wines viticulturist, Mike Saunders.
However, while it has been one of the toughest seasons Saunders has worked in, "the fruit is looking superb", despite a mixed bag of rain and lack of sunlight.
The start of harvest was celebrated on February 25, under strict Covid-19 protection protocols, with Hurunui Mayor Marie Black picking the first grapes at Greystone's vineyard.
Black said the combination of challenging weather and working in a Covid environment this season placed additional pressure on local vineyards.
"The North Canterbury Wine Region is a crucial part of our district’s fabric, and I can only imagine all the hours and hard work that has gone in to getting to this point.”
North Canterbury is New Zealand’s fourth largest wine region, with nearly 1400 hectares planted in vines. Around 600 people are employed in the region’s 71 wineries.