Quality of grape harvest ‘phenomenal’: GGO chair


October 31, 2016 - Niagara This Week
By Scott Rosts

Despite fears in the summer that the drought would have an impact on yields, Niagara grape growers are pleased — so far — with the 2016 harvest.

While there was still about 10 per cent of the harvest remaining on the vines at the time, Grape Growers of Ontario board chair Matthias Oppenlaender said in an Oct. 27 interview that it was a positive year in the vineyards across Niagara and beyond. “Things are better than we expected because of the drought this summer,” said Oppenlaender. “I think we’re on track for an average-size crop.” But average doesn’t describe the quality, said Oppenlaender.

“The quality was phenomenal this year,” he said. “My view is we are at least as good as 2012 – which was a really great year for red. It’s a vintage to look forward to. The flavours, particularly the reds, are going to be exceptional.”

Oppenlaender said while the summer started hot, a bit of rain at the end of July and through August helped. Overall, he said, things shaped up well heading into the harvest, which started in early September.

“Obviously it was a little bit on the dry side, but the fall was spectacular and we missed the big rains, which is good,” he said.

Oppenlaender said overall he considers this year’s harvest a good news story. The GGO board chair manages hundreds of acres of vineyards between his own property and vineyards he custom manages, but says he has seen similar results throughout the region.

“It’s been a little surprising, but we’re happy overall,” he said, describing this year as a good news story.

Fred DiProfio, winemaker at PondView Winery, said irrigation helped ensure things were on par at the Niagara-on-the-Lake winery.

“Those who were able to irrigate I think fared much better this year,” DiProfio said Oct. 26. “We could tell earlier in the year that it was going to be dry, so we watered at the appropriate times.”

DiProfio explained that the peak time to help the harvest is in the earlier months as the vines are growing.

“They only got, at most, two irrigations, but it helped,” he said. “The quantity is good this year and we’re on track. I think both the reds and even the whites will be great this year. We’ll be happy across the board with every variety I think.”

DiProfio said they started picking the first week of September and as of late October they had some reds still on the vines waiting to be harvested.

“It’ll be over with soon, but we don’t rush it — we want to give them the time they need to be at their best for the vintage,” he said.

Ontario’s grape-growing industry has grown to more than 17,000 acres of vines throughout Ontario — 97 per cent of which is used for wine products. The industry is the highest-ranked Ontario agricultural commodity, representing 35 per cent of the farm value of Ontario commercial fruit and a total farm gate of more than $62.3 million according to GGO statistics from 2015.