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Hilary Barrel: Seven Sharp host visits Otago vineyard to lend a hand with wine harvest

We know plenty of orchards have been struggling to find enough pickers to harvest their fruit, but what about our vineyards?

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The Seven Sharp host is back with her Hilary Helps segment. Source: Seven Sharp

As the wine harvest gets underway, Seven Sharp host Hilary Barry wanted to see if the wine season could be saved.

Heading South to check the pulse of the vintners, Barry took herself to one of the country's top vineyards in Central Otago to lend a hand.

New Zealand has the southern-most vines in the world that produce grapes commercially. Barry visited Gibbston Valley, well-known for its fine pinot noir. 

The harvest typically runs from March to May, and the winery harvests on average 300 to 400 tonnes of fruit — 75 per cent of which comes from pinot noir.

Winemaker Sascha Herbert says harvesting this year’s crop comes with a few instructions.

"You have a relationship with the vine,” she says.

For people wanting to grow their own vines, Herbert cautions against overloading the vine with fruit.

“Try not to have too much on your vine,” she says.

“A lot of people think more is better, but if you actually have less on the vine the vine will be healthier.

“And also when it comes to pruning, prune it hard.”

As for the squeeze, Covid-19 didn't stomp on Kiwi wine exports. Last year, international demand for New Zealand wine was stronger than ever, reaching a record breaking $2 billion.

Chief winemaker at Gibbston Valley Christopher Keys says even though New Zealand weather has been “all over the shop”, the end result is “really good”.

“It’s a bit like flying from Auckland to Queenstown: you get a bit of turbulence on the way but the pilot pulls off the perfect landing. That’s our job now,” he says.

Keys says he’s feeling optimistic about the year ahead.

“You have to be. It’s a yearly cycle, it’s a regenerative thin line. But we’re all in it together and we’re cautiously optimistic again."