Jason Snell, Global Sales Manager
Harvest is almost over. We only get one crack at making wine each year so harvest is an amazingly challenging and exciting time.
The farm team has been working really hard all year in the vineyards, with nature – and against her sometimes. The incredible soils with cool climate and challenging winds of the Overberg highlands create incredible flavor and intensity in the grapes.
When the sugars are right the grapes are whipped off day or night and sent immediately to the winery.
Creating our wines requires everyone in the team to get involved!
There is a saying that it all depends on the Terrior, which is absolutely true, but I have also come to understand after helping with my first harvest that the human element is critical. The Winery team is pulling so many hours through harvest that team work, comradery and the joy of making wine is at much at play as the gentle afternoon sun in the fields or the cool sea breeze blowing up and over the Akkedisberg.
Also the extended family of the team, for that steaming cup of coffee before the sun even thinks of sending a hue into the night sky or for bringing in Sunday lunch to keep us fed for those reds in full ferment that need a punch down every hour, or the laughter of young children between the barrels as they pop into to see what is keeping dad or mom so busy.
This year with the fires that swept through Cape Town it has been ever more so the case. While some of the team were fighting fires all day, friends, colleagues and fellow wine makers were in the cellar making sure the wines were getting the attention they need.
So much attention and care is required in this brief period where the mystery and magic of wine making takes place. As grapes begin their journey from gently hand plucked from the vine to that scent as you lift the glass to your nose and a dream of a distant place swirls through your mind, to the laughter that is soon to surround the afternoon feast.
Lenie sealing Gift Horse bottles …and spinning expertly to remove excess wax
We are blessed to be part of that journey but we had better be on our toes! Timing is critical. There are so many different varieties coming into the winery, each requires a different game plan, a loving touch and a concerned eye.
Once the ferment starts on the reds they become like our children, getting fed if necessary, gently wiped down after every punch down. Covered and tucked in at night to stop any nasties taking hold and cooled down if their temp gets too high. We watch them grow, we measure their growth through how quickly they are converting the sugars and when it is time we send them off to press. We gravity feed the free run into barrels and then bucket the skins into a basket press. We then bucket the pressed juice into barrels as well. All by hand, human touch and energy part of each and every step.
The early childhood years of rapid growth are over, it is here in the barrel that secondary ferment will begin and the true character of the terrior, the variety, the farm technique, the wine making choices, and the cellar team will be revealed.
It is a mystery who will rise to the top, which block, variety or barrel will be this year’s star. But I love and cherish every one. From the block the birds got to, to the tank that started fermenting like a 100m sprinter or the slow starter we had to nudge along. Each has begun their journey and I just can’t wait to taste what they will become.
Happy wine: a well fed fermenting Shiraz