Great Southern wineries are enjoying an early and fruitful harvest after one of the region’s toughest seasons on record in 2019. This year’s vintage is expected to hit the shelves earlier than usual, with good conditions allowing many growers to strip their vines ahead of schedule. While other farmers in the region are praying for rain, wine growers are hoping for a few more warm and dry weeks to allow them to finish their harvest. Last year, the Great Southern’s harvest was hit by untimely rain after a season marred by dry conditions, frost and hail. At Plantagenet Wines, this year’s harvest started on February 8, which is three to four weeks ahead of schedule, because of the amount of crop on the vine and the favourable season. Tom Wisdom is the general manager of Plantagenet Wines, and a board member of the Great Southern Wine Producers Association and industry peak body Wines of WA. He said that for many growers, the season — “touch wood” — had been smooth sailing. “It has been a really conducive year for the development of the grape and the development of ripeness,” he said. “That is both sugar ripeness, which is what gets turned into alcohol, and flavour ripeness. “The winemakers will only harvest when the flavours are ripe and so is the sugar. “As long as we can get through the next three weeks with warm weather and not too much rain, we will finish early as well.” Mr Wisdom said he anticipated some of the white varieties, which had a shorter winemaking process, would be ready for consumers by May, considerably earlier than normal. The Great Southern wine region is divided into five sub-regions: Frankland River, Mt Barker, Porongurup, Denmark, and Albany. Harvest typically wraps up earliest in the north in Frankland River, while the reds in the Albany sub-region are usually last off the vine. Mr Wisdom said the geographical size of the Great Southern meant there was a diverse range of wines of varying styles. “Some of the very cool-climate riesling and shiraz will come out of all of those regions, but in nuances in style to that sub-region,” he said. “When you talk about harvest, it also happens by variety.” White varieties are normally harvested at night when the grapes are cooler, and reds during the day.