CRUSHING LOSS: Miles Butler, from Missouri, picks out the bird-pecked and brown fruit from the chardonnay grapes at Canobolas-Smith Wines. The vineyard has experienced extensive crop losses due to excessive rain and bird infestation. Photo: MARK LOGAN 0306mlgrapes1HEAVY rainfall across Orange recently has crushed the hopes of many vignerons with extensive crop losses due to water-laden soil.
Orange recorded 161.6 millimetres of rainfall in just eight days recently with grapes now splitting and subject to infection and mould.
“It’s probably happened at the worst time for grape growers,” Angullong Vineyard owner Ben Crossing said.
“Grapes take up moisture and it transfers up into the berries and they split.”
Mr Crossing said once grapes split they were more susceptible to infection and he estimates he has lost around 20 per cent of his crop.
“It could easily be more than that, it’s quite significant that sort of rain,” he said.
Mr Crossing was thankful Angullong had harvested most of its white varieties prior to the rain, however he is expecting heavy losses in the red varieties.
“It’s be a bit of a salvage operation for the reds,” he said.
It’s the second rain-sodden year for vignerons, Mr Crossing said. The vineyard lost 500 tonnes of grapes due to rain this time last year.
Brangayne of Orange owner David Hoskins said excess moisture in grapes led to reduced sugar levels and flavour.
Infection has become a problem in split grapes across the vineyard, according to Mr Hoskins.
“A few split berries in a bunch can ruin the whole lot … the rot will spread very quickly across the vineyard,” he said.
“We haven’t seen a rainfall event like this in the past and we’re expecting the worst.”
Canobolas-Smith Wines owner Murray Smith said cases of botrytis had led to a drawn-out harvesting process with pickers having to avoid infected grapes.
“It’s making the picking process a lot more expensive,” he said.
Mr Smith said excess rains had also brought a larger bird population to his vineyard. The birds are eating the grapes that are not suffering from infection.
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