Canberra wineries have high hopes for top-quality drops after warm season

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The Canberra Times


Vats of fermenting wine grapes actually smell like hot cross buns at one stage of the process, winemaker Frank van de Loo said.

Or perhaps, he admitted, it's just what's on his mind this weekend.

The sweet, spiced smell of shiraz grapes wafts through the Mount Majura winery shed, as Mr van de Loo plunges the newly-picked deep purple product.

As the growing season draws to an end, he reflected on what he initially estimated to be a season of low-yield.

In spring, Mount Majura staff walk the vineyard estimating how many grapes will be produced. In seasons of higher yield, this tactic allows them to thin the grapes to allow only the best quality to ripen.

"We actually estimated a low yield this year, but we've had a good yield," Mr van de Loo said.

"We've picked about 81 tonnes, which is putting us on track to pick about 90 tonnes, which is a really solid year."

That is about 60,000 bottles of wine.

As for the quality of the wine, Mr van de Loo said he's expecting a fine vintage but time will tell.

"If I compare it in my mind, it's similar to 2014 but the difference in 2014 was by this stage it was just starting to get cold and rainy, so I think this year's would definitely be better than 2014," he said.

"2015 was a really fantastic year, and so we're hoping we're up to that standard but it takes time to get it in the barrel, let it settle down, and then get a sense of the quality. At this stage, we're really happy."

Further north of Canberra at Murrumbateman, Clonakilla winemaker Tim Kirk said their harvest was all but finished.

He said he's got a "pretty good nose" for quality, and so far the new wine "smells fantastic".

Mr Kirk said it was the third year in a row Clonakilla had had above average yield.

"The volume of grapes is good again this year because we had that beautiful long, warm summer," he said.

"We've got great colour, deep, dark red in our reds. Another noticeable thing is they held onto their natural acidity really well, and that's a good thing."

Mr Kirk said Canberra wine continued to go from strength to strength. He encouraged residents and visitors to make the most of the long weekend, by getting out and about to the region's vineyards.

"Easter is a great time for people to come out and visit the cellar doors. What could be better on a beautiful autumn afternoon to taste the landscape of Canberra through the wines we've produced from it."