By Jen Pfeiffer
Well it’s almost that time of year again – make or break time in the winery, our harvest or vintage as we call it in the industry. Vintage only comes round once per year, so as a winemaker, it is the one chance for the year to make all the wine required for sales until the next vintage.
Winemakers around the country are now cleaning, cleaning, cleaning in preparation of the arrival of the first fruit of the season. All the tanks, pumps and hoses are prepared for the mountains of work they are about to undergo.
Much of the machinery used in the winery is dormant for 9 months of the year, so the dust and cobwebs must all be removed and the equipment sterilised. Floors are pressure washed, equipment re-calibrated. The winery is a buzz with activity.
Vintage also sees an influx of staff to help with the demands of the harvest. At Pfeiffer Wines, we often employ young winemakers from other parts of the world who are looking to gain experience outside the native country. This has benefits for both parties. For the foreign winemaker, it is a chance to learn many new and diverse techniques from a totally different region to their home region. For Pfeiffer Wines, it provides us with educated and passionate staff to contribute the long hours required, as well as offer knowledge on how they make wine in their home country.
Now we are testing the fruit with field samples for sugar levels, acidity levels and flavour, carefully monitoring the ripeness of the grapes. A small, random sample of bunches or berries are taken from the block, crushed to produce some juice and then analysed in the laboratory for the tests required. The best part of this (of course) is to sample the juice and taste the development of fruit flavours.
The current season is looking very promising in the Rutherglen region. With good spring rainfalls and mild summer conditions, there is plenty of optimism for the production of great wine from high quality fruit this year. Of course, we are still at the mercy of the gods until all the fruit has been harvested. Heavy rain between now and harvest can have a detrimental affect on the fruit quality, with botrytis and other bunch rots the main risk. While we have been very diligent with our preventative spray applications in the vineyard, there is still some risk, and we will have our fingers and toes crossed for fine, dry conditions now until the end of April.
Vintage is a busy and challenging time of year, but it is also the most exciting and thrilling time of year. There is no better feeling than harvesting some beautiful fruit in the vineyard and seeing that through to a great finished wine in the glass!!!!