IT is that juicy time of the year again when locally grown grapes hit the shelves of supermarkets across the Central Highlands.
And what a year it has been for table grape growers in the Emerald region, with cool spring weather resulting in a whole bunch of premium quality fruit.
Owner of Talafa Rd's Gleniecy Vineyards Glen Pearmine said it has been the perfect growing year for grapes.
"The fruit is beautiful, Emerald has premium fruit this year, top quality," Mr Pearmine said.
"It's been slower growing, we're about a week later this year than we were last year on the picking because of the cooler weather in August, September and October… it slows the growing process but you end up with a much better fruit with really good colour."
Picking of the first grape variety started on the 42-acre Gleniecy vineyard about two weeks ago, when Mr Pearmine's Red Flame Seedless took their place on shelves up and down the east coast of Australia.
Next will come the White Menindee, which take up about 80% of his farm, and lastly the Red Globes, which he expected to be finished picking by about Christmas time.
"Australia is predominantly a white grape eating nation. And if you go overseas, it's predominantly red grape," Mr Pearmine said.
"Your first shipment into the market is the most important every year, it has to be premium fruit and presented well, that's how you interest your buyers and set your price."
Mr Pearmine said he started the first week with just eight pickers, making it easier to control the quality of the price-defining first batch.
As things ramp up, he should have about 15-20 pickers and two box-boys working for him full-time, many of them Tongan migrants or backpackers.
He said it's always difficult finding workers, but he's lucky.
"I've only got a small farm, I could only imagine the hassles other much larger farms in the area would have trying to find 50 to 100-plus workers," he said.
He said he had never had a bad year during his 15 years in business.
And surprisingly, despite the floods and heavy rainfall of last summer, 2010 was Gleniecy's best year yet.
"Because of the premium quality fruit this year, we expect to have high consumption, I think the consumers will accept it and the market shouldn't drop much," he said.
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