January and February are months of great anxiety in vineyards. Too much rain, not enough rain, too much heat, not enough sun, high humidity and definitely too many birds!
Today the sun is shining – the humidity has dropped and the conditions are perfect for ripening before harvest. But how long will this last? Over the last few years we have noticed a significant change in the weather conditions, and harvest seems to get earlier every year … in sync with the early budburst in August. Anyone with a keen interest in gardening will know exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s my favourite time of year in particular with the red varieties, as they go through verasion. The bunches are beautiful, as they turn from green berries to red berries, with each berry going through the transition in its own time.
There are also numerous hazards as vintage approaches. The longer you leave the fruit on the vine to ripen, the higher the sugar content and more concentrated flavours (and the more bird damage) … leave the fruit too long, and you risk summer rains (or worse) that can be devastating, with flavours diluted – the pierced berries, together with high humidity, creating perfect conditions for rot to set in.
Definitely a game of chance … bet you didn’t know being a gambler is a pre-requisite for viticulturists. You have to be made of stern stuff with buckets of optimism to wait out these weeks while the unpredictable weather does its thing.
In the vineyard, the investment has been made, the pruning, inner row crops established, spraying, de-budding, canopy trimming, fruit thinning, slashing, weeding … the work in the vineyard is continuous and all of it leading to this time of year … vintage. The time has come – the rows are neatly slashed, the netting rests over the vines, the gas guns blast intermittently, the ute makes regular rounds through the vineyard.
In the winery, cleaning is the priority. It is scrubbed clean, along with all the equipment – the destemmer, the crush, the pump, the hoses, the tanks, everything sits and waits. Contingency plans are in place should a key piece of equipment break down, OHS policies reviewed – vintage is once a year, so we all need a refresher.
We are ready to jump into action when the call is made – this year had a dry start and the vineyard was looking a little stressed, but in the last couple of weeks we have had good summer rain without any of the nasty stuff up until now. The 2015 vintage is nearly upon us!
January Events at Great Lakes Winery
Jan 4th – Back Paddock Music with Caravãna Sun from 1pm.
Jan 26th – Back Paddock Music with Big Fins from 1pm.