By Amy Looker

The Hunter Valley enjoyed ideal conditions in the lead up to vintage, but the onset of rain yesterday has left growers cautious.

Ken Bray from the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association said that the wet soils had finally dried out after a challenging spring and the temperature was providing excellent ripening conditions.

However, he expressed concern at the current rainy conditions, which have the potential to delay harvest.

"It has rained continually overnight, so who knows what's around the corner? The goalposts are changing," Bray told TheShout this morning.

"Ongoing rain creates the possibility of delaying harvest. Depending on how long the rainy conditions prevail, the disease pressure becomes higher which creates a micro-climate that can lead to fungal diseases."

According to Bray, Chardonnay and Verdelho are shaping up well, while Semillon was lagging slightly behind and is slated for picking in early February.

Pinot Noir destined for sparkling wine has already been harvested, and Bray expects the Shiraz to stay on the vine until the first week of February.

"The timing of vintage this year is more traditional, and the more senior members of the local wine community have commented that these conditions are similar to the 70s," Bray said.

Meanwhile, harvest has already kicked off in Queensland's Granite Belt region, with Sirromet Wines expected to haul in 16 tonnes of Chambourcin destined for the winery's 'Love My' range this week.

Harvesting of Verdelho, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Viognier white fruit is due to begin early this month, while red fruit would be picked from March to May.

Chief winemaker Adam Chapman said Sirromet's vineyards had been largely unaffected by almost 500ml of rainfall on its Mount Cotton property and 45ml at Ballandean in the past week.

"There was no damage at Mount Cotton because our vineyards are on slopes and there was a 90 per cent water run-off, while the rain at Ballandean was minimal and topped up growth on the vines," Chapman said.

"Overall we have had excellent growing conditions at our vineyards since September 2011."

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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