WITH very little rain predicted across the region for the rest of this year, Brangayne of Orange wines owner David Hoskins is among the vignerons bracing themselves for a hard season ahead.
The widespread drought has had a large impact on the region’s agriculture and economy, and the Bureau of Meteorology has predicted a warm, dry spring.
The region’s wineries may just be kicking off their new season, but vignerons are already worried about the drought and what impacts it will have on the coming vintage.
Mr Hoskins said the weather had been extremely dry at his vineyard with very little autumn rain, followed by the driest July he could remember for years.
While the lack of autumn rain helped during harvest, he said the dry times had been a concern ever since.
“The long-term forecast for rain is not good so we’re bracing ourselves for a pretty hard season,” Mr Hoskins said.
Orange did, however, receive 40 millimetres of rain last Friday and Saturday.
“We really needed that soil moisture there as we start spring, but we need follow up moisture,” Mr Hoskins said.
“We’re at the start of the new season and it’s very early days. We’ll still get a decent crop if we get some good rain.”
In Young, Ballinaclash Wines owner Peter Mullany said it was “an anxious wait and see” for the season ahead.
While the winery has received regular rainfalls of 5-6mms during winter, it is far from enough for a good growing season.
“We’ve got irrigation from local ground water, but if it doesn’t rain it’ll be a concern, it’s as simple as that,” Mr Mullany said.
“The irrigation is good and it’ll keep them [the vines] alive, but it’s not as good as rain.
“The sub-soil moisture is not sufficient, we’re going to need rain or have to turn the [irrigation] taps on soon.”
In Mudgee, Logan Wines owner Peter Logan said buds on his vines were yet to burst so there were a lot of unknowns.
“It’s the driest lead-in into a season we’ve ever had,” he said.
In the past three weeks, however, the winery has received 62mm of rain.
“That put some moisture into the soil which is good because, we’re about to get bud bursts,” Mr Logan said.
While Ruth Anderson, who owns 3 Views Vineyard in Bathurst, said the drought has had a significant impact.
“We’re pumping from the vineyard dame to keep the sheep alive,” she said.
“According to the weather forecast, we’re not going to have any decent rain until next year.”
Mrs Anderson said, however, that a lack of rain for some time during the grape growing period was useful.
“Until they [grapes] get to a certain stage it doesn’t matter if they’re a bit dry,” she said.
From late August until now, around 50 millimetres of rain has fallen on her winery and while Mrs Anderson said that was the most that has fallen in some months, more was needed.
“It’ll depend on what the weather does as to whether it’ll have an impact on the grapes,” she said.
In Oberon, Bellbrook Friends Winery owner and winemaker George Clark said while his vineyard does have an irrigation system, the drought has still had and impact.
“It reduced the biodiversity. We’ve noticed that insects, frogs and spiders have gone into hiding,” he said.
“I think for any successful agricultural operation, biodiversity is essential.”