It’s always a slightly stressful experience when it comes to harvest. There is a pressing need to get the fruit off the vines as fast as possible and into cold storage to cool down for a day or so before we crush.
There are a couple reasons behind the need to cool the fruit before it is crushed. One is that the grapes will undergo the handling process better when they are cold, (although not so for the winery hands who have to handle them, usually un-gloved!). This is because the fruit is denser, allowing the berries to stay more intact throughout the handling and juicing/destemming process. When it comes to varietals like Pinot Noir, this is crucial as I use the grapes whole and intact. However the same is true for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Although perhaps more importantly, keeping the grapes cool also preserves their acidity and allows me better control over the fermentation processes used in each of the varietals.
Needless to say, when time is of the essence your blood pressure starts to rise – usually in synchronicity with the sun. We always start early in the morning when the fruit is already cool and easily picked and then hope for overcast days – however it doesn’t always unfold as you’d planned.
We rely on a series of elements that must all be in place, like clockwork, to ensure the best outcome – pickers, wranglers, transport, weather, drivers, equipment and even the morning tea and lunch breaks at the local cold store all need to come together in a kind of grand design. One unforeseen failure in one element can be catastrophic.
This year, we started harvest with a cool morning but a day promising heat and rushed to grab the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as fast as we could, we were low on pickers so the race was on and everyone worked harder to make up for the loss of labour to finish the job and cool the fruit as quickly as possible. When it came time to pick the Pinot Noir we were racing against a cold front which was sweeping through the hills – backed by strong winds and heavy rain – all part of living in a micro-climate. The last bin was ferried away to the cold store just as the first drops started to fall. Perfect timing, but in a vineyard you need to be wary of Hubris and so I’ll just say this time I was lucky.
As mentioned before, the fruit looks extremely promising. Lower yields, but from talking to other winemakers in the region it seems a common trend this vintage, however the quality is dynamite.
I’m planning on making extra quantities of my Pinot Noir based Rosè, the Piccadilly Sunrise, this year to avoid disappointing all of you who either missed out or ran dry after stocks were ravenously devoured by new and loyal supporters. Also, I’m producing a little extra Sauvignon Blanc to help quell demand and I suspect this vintage, based on fruit quality, will be one of my best.
Chardonnay also looks strong and initial juice characteristics extremely promising. The Pinot Noir, open ferment and 30% full bunch has started to bubble away and the tubs, when plunging them, I’m reminded of witches’ cauldrons where spells and magic are made – there is of course the occasional curse muttered.
2018 looks like it will be a standout vintage for the Adelaide Hills and especially the Piccadilly Valley. There’s lots to do but the lion’s share of the year’s labour is completed.
Time to establish my ferments and let the wine run its course.