A RECORD hot January may not have destroyed grapes but it has left many central Victorian winemakers scrambling to harvest fruit over a shorter period.
Much of the fruit has ripened at about the same time, making 2019's vintage a "challenging one", Mandurang Valley Wines' Wes Vine said.
January saw several heat waves, including a week in which the mercury reached a record 45.9 degrees.
"Those runs of hot days certainly had an impact," Mr Vine said.
It had been a "frenetic" time at the Bress winery's Harcourt property, with hot weather through January and February impacting fruit development, the group's Chris McCormack said.
"It shut down to the point that fruit production didn't progress as it normally would. But as things have cooled down we have seen a lot of fruit coming in."
That fruit had come in a little later and the harvest would likely end in mid-April.
A general trend of hotter years had led many regional winemakers to embrace new grape varieties that had emerged in hotter climates than some of those from France, Mr Vine said.
"We now grow grenache, which shows itself to be very comfortable with this sort of weather," he said.
Mr McCormack said his group was very concerned about climate change and had geared much of its practices to improve energy use, water and composting.
The group made the decision last year to pull out an apple orchard after a late frost damaged fruit at a critical moment.
"Over the last couple of years we've been hit by late frosts. That's been very damaging and came on top of the drought-like conditions we've been experiencing," Mr McCormack said.
Despite a busy harvest, winemakers said there were positives to come out of the summer.
December rain hit at a perfect time, Mr McCormack said.
"If it rains too early it will destroy flowers, too late and it can crack grape skins. So the dry period worked well for us."
Both Bress and Mandurang Valley Wines had completed most of their harvest for drops both promised would be ones to savour.
Mr Vine said his wine's quality would be reminiscent of 2008's, while Mr McCormack compared his to 2016's.
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