Good winemaking reveals the story of the vineyard in every bottle of wine.
And this time of year, is when many chapters of that story are written.
As the warmer Summer days set in and the vines across Australia spring back to life, our winemakers are turning their attention towards harvest.
Greg Garnish from Harmans Estate says bud burst marks the beginning of a crucial time for winemakers;
“Bud burst and harvest is a time where we allow the cover crops to grow for an organic nitrogen source for the vines. During harvest, the winemakers role is all about minimising the damage to the fruit and vine, by providing adequate water, nutrients and regularly checking the fruit to ensure it’s happy and healthy,” he said.
Grapes are tested weekly in the lead-up to harvest. Winemakers will visit the vineyard early morning to monitor and taste the fruit while it is cool and crisp. Another visit in the afternoon helps reveal any signs of water stress. They’ll also conduct lab tests on the fruit, to check the sugar and acidity levels.
Mr Garnish says it’s also known as a time of very little sleep for winemakers, as they regularly start work at 5am and clock up to 15 hours of work a day estimating crops and making adjustments to the vineyard.
“After all, grapes don’t wait,” he laughed.
Over time, winemakers have learnt some of the key indicators of a good harvest; even bud burst and flowering usually means the grapes are ageing at the same time, to ensure even ripening of the fruit. They also learn where the strong and weaker points of the vineyard occur and can monitor accordingly. However, a truly good harvest isn’t guaranteed until the grapes are fermented and ready for bottling. Strong rain and winds are known to defoliate vines in early Summer, creating fruit which ripens a lot later than the rest of the vineyard.
As harvest draws near, winemakers will ramp up their taste and lab testing of the fruit to daily; “then picking time is called” said Mr Garnish.
“It’s not uncommon for a winery to harvest a block of grapes in four to seven days to ensure and consistent flavour profile is achieved.”
From there, the winemaker will monitor the temperature of the fruit and juice via sensory and lab testing, to ensure a balance of fruit flavours, acidity and terroir are revealed.
“A good winemaker will allow the fruit to show in the wine, whilst adding a little bit of their personality,” said Mr Garnish.
Cheers to a successful harvest for our winemakers.
Written by Kate Ferguson