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News posted on Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Grape pickers rush to beat rain
Grape pickers have been getting up before dawn at Coolangatta Estate this week to ensure the Shoalhaven Coast wine region's most famous wine is not affected by heavy rain. Some NSW vineyards have lost more than 90 per cent of their crop this season so everyone was smiling with relief when the white wine harvest was completed at Shoalhaven Heads on Monday and the first of the reds were picked yesterday, reports the Illawarra Mercury.

Hotter conditions deliver bumper vintage
Winemakers in Margaret River say a hotter than average summer has provided near perfect growing conditions for winegrapes this year. Vintage for white grapes in the region is expected to wrap up this week, about a fortnight earlier than usual. The Wine Industry Association's Aymee Mastaglia says the higher temperatures have not only prevented disease, but also improved fruit quality, reports ABC News.

Stealing the Hunter's beauty robs it of a future
Over the past 150 years, the Tyrrell family have been winemakers, property owners and community members of the Hunter Valley wine region. Over the decades we have seen off a number of threats to our industry. Today we are faced with a new one: coal seam gas. Like most of the Hunter Valley vignerons, I am not anti-mining but, above all, I believe firmly in the need for food and water security, writes Hunter Valley winemaker Bruce Tyrrell in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Nufarm boss puts wine up for sale
Nufarm chief Doug Rathbone is offloading his family wine business which includes some of Australia's most notable names such as Yering Station and Mount Langi Ghiran. Mr Rathbone's personal finances have been under pressure for some time due to the falling value of his stake in the insecticide company and private investments in property and wine. The Rathbone family is examining its entire commercial asset base for potential sale options, reports The Australian Financial Review.

Fantastic grape harvest
Derwent Valley grape-harvesting began yesterday with growers relieved to have avoided smoke taint from weekend bushfires. Derwent Valley Wines vineyard manager Andrew Hanigan said picking Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes for sparkling wines at their 10 hectare vineyard had begun, reports The Mercury.

Dam levels spur confidence
Victorian irrigators are banking on at least two more years of full water allocations. The rapidly filling Murray-Darling storages have coincided with optimistic forecasts for many horticulture prices which have growers talking positively with financiers for the first time in years. Irrigator leaders said confidence had returned to many industries after the sodden end to the drought, reports Weekly Times Now. "The storages are pretty close to chock-a-block, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for a lot of people," Murray Valley Winegrowers chairman Dennis Mills said.

Grapegrowers grapple with berry biting birds (NZ)
It is a later start to the grapes harvest in Gisborne but birds are attacking the grapes earlier and in increasing numbers, reports The Gisborne Herald. The grape season is running about seven to 10 days later than normal due to a typical cloudy and wet La Nina season with less sunshine hours and heat, says GroCo general manager and viticulturist Warwick Bruce. The perennial problem of birds has seen vineyards transformed into a sea of netting as growers do their best to protect their grape crops.

Moët brand manager jailed for theft (UK)
Brand manager for Moët Hennessy, Romain Brunot, has been jailed and fined for stealing £75,000 of Champagne and spirits. Over a four year period he appropriated 400 bottles of Krug and 400 bottles of Belvedere vodka that had been left over from events, including those held at the Dorchester Hotel and Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants. Brunot then transferred the bottles to a cellar in the east end of London and then to a storage unit registered in a friend’s name, reports The Drinks Business.

Premiere Napa Valley breaks $3m barrier (US)
The annual Premiere Napa Valley charity wine auction raised a record total of US$3.1m, breaking through the US$3m barrier for the first time. In total, 64 successful bidders bought 200 lots, containing a total of 1,495 cases of wine. The total taken was 31% up on last year. Lots sold at an average case price of just over US$2,000, 34% up on 2011 and another record, reports Decanter.

Antonio Banderas debuts line of Spanish wines (US)
He's no longer merely the voice of the Nasonex allergy-fighting bee. Actor Antonio Banderas is now the spokesman for Anta Banderas, a line of Spanish wines he introduced this weekend at the annual South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Florida. Before heading to the Oscars in Los Angeles on Sunday, the actor, still hunky at 51, spent an hour on Saturday at Miami wine shop Sunset Corners, where he signed bottles and discussed his love of wine, reports LA Weekly.

Concha y Toro to open South African office (South Africa)
Concha y Toro has announced plans to open an office in Cape Town, providing the Chilean group with a base from which to support its rapidly growing sales across the African continent.Due to open this April, the office will make Concha y Toro the first Chilean winery to have a fixed base in Africa, a market in which the company has been working since 2001, reports The Drinks Business.

Domaine Huët's Noël Pinguet retires (France)
Noël Pinguet, the long-serving director of Domaine Huët, one of the Loire Valley's leading producers, has retired from his winemaking duties. His career at the estate began in 1976, when he began working alongside his father-in-law, the late Gaston Huët, before eventually assuming full control of winemaking in 1986, reports Wine Spectator.