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Harvest is an important time of the year at O’Reilly’s

Resident Viticulturist and Property Manager Kevin Murtagh has worked at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat and Canungra Valley Vineyards for the past two years. Kevin studied Viticulture in Victoria with previous work history at Murtagh Bros Vineyards and various operations in Victoria and NSW.

Kevin shares insight into the technical, environmental and consumer demands of Canungra Valley Vineyard’s grape production.

New Year harvest is looking good

The 2019 harvest is looking sensational! But in this industry, it is possible to go from chocolates to boiled lollies very quickly. I don’t like to get too excited until the fruit is in the tank at the winery.

The anticipated 2019 yield for the vineyard is approximately 22 tonnes and there is usually an extraction rate of 700 litres of juice per tonne – so 15,400 litres or 19,250 bottles is anticipated just from the vineyard.

O’Reilly’s many grape varieties

In January and February, we will be harvesting (white) Semillon, Verdelho and (red) Chambourcin, Shiraz and Petit Vedot (first vintage) from the Canungra Valley Vineyards property.

To fulfill our wine label demands we also source grape varieties from Stanthorpe in Queensland’s Granite Belt, including: (white) Marsanne, Sauvignon Blanc and (red) Merlot, Tempranillo, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese.

The Semillon for our Sparkling white is secured from Murgon in the South Burnett Region (approximately 2 hours inland of Noosa).

Weather is the main influencing factor

The weather has the largest impact on the quality and quantity of harvest with adverse conditions turning a sound quality crop to worthless unusable fruit in a matter of days.

Just before picking during harvest last year (February 2018) we received 250mm of rain. The rain combined with humid conditions and high sugar levels prompted the onset of botrytis and black rot which effectively turned the fruit to mush. As a result we didn’t harvest any red varieties in 2018.

Prevention rather than cure

This year’s conditions have seen the vines vulnerable to Downey Mildew (a devastating fungus that attacks all green plant matter). So far, I have been able to keep it at bay by diligent canopy management combined with some leaf plucking to allow the fruit better exposure and of course timely preventative sprays.

Every year presents a new challenge from the climatic conditions, so it is best to be adaptable and pro-active and prevent rather than cure. In that way, I have done all preventative measures available and hope to end up with clean sound fruit that the wine makers can work their magic on next year.

Premium wine and consumer demand

It is impossible to make a premium wine from substandard fruit and neither the volume or the varietal selection at Canungra Valley Vineyards will meet consumer demand for O’Reilly’s wine. So, in the interest of continually improving and offering a premium product we source the best fruit available and partner with excellent growers in the optimum areas for that fruit.

Peter O’Reilly is CEO of the Queensland Wine College and Shane O’Reilly’s (O’Reilly’s General Manager) brother. He also happens to have a vineyard and grows some sensational fruit that we are fortunate enough to be able to buy from him.

There are some other growers in Stanthorpe that we buy from but we utilise the Queensland Wine College to make our wines for us.

The growing cycle

Pruning, shoot thinning, wire lifts are all time critical events in the life cycle of a grape. Just as important is the application of spraying and herbicides, hedging, nutrient analysis and leaf plucking.

We have a ‘no synthetic pesticide’ policy. Sulphur, a naturally occurring product, is the only mitecide used for control. Dipel is used for caterpillars as a biological control.

The growing cycle every year, while generally the same, is also unique. It requires the ability to read and anticipate what is going to happen and plan accordingly.

So, seeing the result of a clean ripe harvest is very rewarding, especially if it has been a challenging year!

Pivotal roles

Pruning, shoot thinning, wire lifts are all time critical events in the life cycle of a grape. Just as important is the application of spraying and herbicides, hedging, nutrient analysis and leaf plucking.

O’Reilly’s idyllic Canungra Valley Vineyards sits in the Canungra Valley just 40 minutes from the Gold Coast.

O’Reilly’s Viticulturist Kevin Murtagh

White vintage looking near ready for Harvest

Kevin Murtagh checking on the progress of red grapes in our Vineyard.

Members picking grapes amongst the vines during last year’s Harvest.

Favourite wine

Depends on the situation, however I have a penchant for Karma Sparkling Red, and Lona Sparkling Semillon.

Our new 2018 release, Rhelma Rose – a soft bodied Rose with fresh red fruits and subtle pale salmon colour – is quickly growing in popularity and perfect for a Queensland summer day.

O’Reilly’s wine members are invited to help pick the harvest and often attend the Burning of the Canes to mark the end of one season and beginning of the next. O’Reilly’s also hold regular wine appreciation with food and wine pairing events so that the community can further their education on wine varieties.