ACT News


Winemakers in sparkling moods over vintage crop

Winemakers say well-timed rain and hot weather have turned this year's vintage into a corker.

Canberra District Wine Industry Association president Allan Pankhurst said his family would begin picking grapes for their 25th vintage at Hall on Monday. The grapes will be used to make sparkling pinot noir.

''The vintage is looking fabulous,'' Mr Pankhurst said.

''This little bit of rain won't be a problem for us. We had a good spring, good moisture, then it dried up.

''Because we had a good period of fruit set, the bunches are well developed - good numbers of berries per bunch.

''The dry weather would have kept the bunches smallish, the quality and number will be up. I am thinking it is one of the better vintages we have had for years.''


Mr Pankhurst said French pickers had extended their visas under an arrangement with the Australian government, which encourages visits to rural areas for fruit picking.

His wife Christine said they had just returned from the three-day Sydney Cellar Door, an outdoor wine event in Hyde Park, where 100 NSW wineries served their favourite drops.

Rain kept many people away, but Canberra's producers already had a lead in the promotion stakes thanks to former speaker Peter Slipper.

Mr Slipper was summonsed to court last month for allegedly exceeding his parliamentary allowance when hiring transport to the top-rating Canberra wineries in 2010.

The case has generated much publicity for the ACT's cool climate wines.

Murrumbateman winemarker Ken Helm said you could not fault Mr Slipper's taste.

''We are always grateful for any politician giving us a hand,'' he said.

''If other politicians want to follow his lead and visit us, we are more than happy to entertain them.''

The season's first grapes were crushed early on Monday morning at Helm Wines. They were fantastic, according to Mr Helm, who added that this year's vintage might match 2008.

''The weather this season has been warm to hot, but with rain at just the right time, so as to produce perfect, disease-free fruit to celebrate our 40 years in the Canberra wine district.''

This harvest will be lonelier than previous ones, following the death late last year of Mr Helm's colleague Al Lustenberger, who produced premium fruit for Helm Wines.

Mr Lustenberger died after falling through a skylight, while cleaning out gutters.

''He was a great friend of the community's and this harvest is for him.''