Canberra-region winemakers celebrate near-perfect conditions for 2017 vintage
Canberra district grape growers are praising recent conditions as great for winemaking, as they begin to harvest thousands of tonnes of fruit.
Intense spring rain set vines up for a very healthy growing season, and delivered water views at neighbouring Lake George, Lerida Estate general manager Anne Caine said.
The rain left the soil vineyard soil so saturated, irrigation was not needed this vintage.
"I have been looking at these bunches and they are just beautiful," Ms Caine said.
"It was just fantastic to see the water in front of our vineyard again."
The favourable conditions have been welcomed with open arms, with Lerida Estate doubling production to keep up with growing demand for its rosé.
"There has been a big upswing in interest in rosé in Australia, creating an unprecedented demand for rosé," Ms Caine said.
Lerida Estate began producing rosé a decade ago and Ms Caine said they expect to produce 30,000 bottles of it this vintage.
"For the first time we are having to buy some pinot noir from other vineyards to try and meet demand because we simply can't grow enough grapes," she said.
Ms Caine said the winery was expecting to finish its harvest by early April.
"Which will be one of the earliest finish times that we have ever had in our 18 years picking grapes, and that's mainly because of the warm weather we are having," she said.
They also expect to process a record 130 tonnes of fruit this vintage.
Early harvesting has also begun within the north-east corner of the ACT.
On slopes below Mount Majura, 20 per cent of the crop has been picked.
"This vintage the fruit is ripening a bit slower," assistant winemaker at Mount Majura Vineyard Monica Gray said.
"Vintage has been a bit of a later start than last year, but so far so good."
Tempranillo is one of the vineyard's flagship wines and Ms Gray has been carefully sampling the ripening fruit each week, testing it for sugar and acid levels.
"You can certainly taste the sugar building up in those berries and there is some really nice flavour happening," she said.
While the Canberra district is well known for production of quality shiraz and riesling, Ms Gray said later ripening varieties - Graciano from Spain, Mondeuse from France, and Touriga Nacional from Portugal - played an increasingly important role.
The vineyard's marketing and sales manager Kate Hibberson said Canberra's climate was a factor in the varietals' success.
"We've actually compared it to a Spanish region... What they have most importantly is our warm days and cool nights," she said.
"We are fairly experimental."
The staggered ripening of grape varieties also reduces pressure on the winery, with its harvest not expected to be complete until ANZAC Day.