Jacob Stein is happy with this year's harvest. Photo: Nicolas Zoumboulis.

Jacob Stein is happy with this year's harvest. Photo: Nicolas Zoumboulis.

The sweet taste of optimism

The Mudgee wine industry is optimistic after a successful harvest

Sustainability
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Winemaker Jacob Stein is confident about the future of the Mudgee wine industry

This year's grape harvest has brought a smile to Jacob Stein's face.

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"We'll end up doing between 300 to 400 tons this year and the quality has been excellent despite the challenging conditions with higher rainfall," he said.

Mr Stein is a third generation winemaker, who took over the winemaking role at Robert Stein Winery in 2009.

Jacob Stein is happy with this year's harvest. Photo: Nicolas Zoumboulis.

Jacob Stein is happy with this year's harvest. Photo: Nicolas Zoumboulis.

As a winemaker, he has faced more challenges in the past two years than many have in an entire career, but those challenges brought Mudgee wineries closer together, according to Mr Stein.

"We all banded together stronger than ever last year because of the smoke, drought and COVID issues," he said.

Mudgee Wine Association president, Jess Chrcek said tourists are often surprised to hear competing wineries support each other.

"It's a very collaborative region and it makes me proud to be a part of it," she said.

Read also: Could the pandemic entice more people to work in agriculture?

Mudgee winemakers have learnt from each other as they adapted their practices for 2021, according to Mr Stein.

"There's seated tastings now and we're finding customers are getting a really good experience. Everyone in the Mudgee Region has had to adapt and I think it's worked out in a big positive way," Mr Stein said.

Jacob Stein recommended this year's Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a strong performer on the vine. Photo: Nicolas Zoumboulis

Jacob Stein recommended this year's Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a strong performer on the vine. Photo: Nicolas Zoumboulis

Many long-held traditions have been challenged, like fruit-picking, which is usually done by international backpackers.

"There was a real shortage of pickers, so it took four times as long to hand pick our Riesling, but it's good to be able to give Australians a go. It was great because we got our cellar door and winery staff out there and treated it as team-building days," Mr Stein said.

The travel shake-up also led to positives, like a local tourism influx, according to Mr Stein.

"There's so many people that tell us they haven't been to Mudgee for 20 years, they always go to the Hunter and now they're revisiting Mudgee and they can't believe they haven't been here for so long," he said.

The region has experienced a 25 per cent increase in overnight visitation, with a 40 per cent increase in new visitors to the region, according to Mudgee Tourism CEO, Cara George.

"This increase in demand is a testament to the outstanding work that local tourism businesses are doing to elevate their experience offerings," she said.

Nearly 95 per cent of visitors have told Mudgee Tourism they are planning a return trip to the Mudgee Region within 12 months.

"With a strong harvest predicted this year, we are delighted to know local wine supply will meet new and increased demand," Ms George said.

The story The sweet taste of optimism first appeared on Mudgee Guardian.

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