Covid-19 and the interminable Auckland lockdown continues to bring challenges to us all. For local winegrowers, the situation presents a number of difficulties, in particular labour shortages and the disruption to cellar door operations.
Many vineyards depend on seasonal staff to support their core employees through labour-intensive times such as pruning, shoot selection and, naturally, harvest. Young people from all over the world, often with experience in having worked in European vineyards, are shut out because of our closed borders. Those who sheltered in New Zealand during the early stages of the pandemic, have now returned home due to a more stable situation in their home countries. Sadly, very few young New Zealanders are stepping up to fill this vacuum.
In addition, many tasks in the vineyard are time-critical; winter pruning needs to be completed before spring budburst and burgeoning shoots need to be tucked behind supporting wires to prevent breakage in the equinoxial winds. In small vineyards, such as those in Matakana, these are all manual operations – unlike the mechanisation of large-scale vineyards – so labour shortages are concerning.
The disruption to cellar door operations is devastating for local growers as nothing can replace the person-to-person connection made at the cellar door.
Experiencing the unique characteristics of our wines, tasting and talking to passionate producers, cannot be replicated by choosing by the click of a button. The ease of buying wine, and indeed everything through the supermarket duopoly, has meant that small wine producers, who are not represented there, are disadvantaged. In much the same way, our small fruit and vegetable growers have lost their outlets through a closed farmers’ market.
Artisan producers in all fields are doing it tough in this pandemic, as their ability to connect with their customers is severely limited.
Wineries that export are experiencing good global demand coupled with a restricted supply from a reduced 2021 harvest, but few in the Matakana area are exporters. Our small-scale producers depend on domestic demand and the business that flows from wine tourism.
Meanwhile, you can make a virtual visit to your local vineyards through our website www.matakanawine.co.nz, where you’ll learn about the passionate local growers, the diversity of their offering and let them feel the love, by purchasing directly through the links to their websites. A few cellar doors are now open again and hopefully soon you’ll be able to visiti us all in person.