Monday, 20 January 2014

Vintage 2014 - Day 1

It finally arrived, the day everyone had been building up to for the past two weeks of training and anticipation... 
And what an anticlimax - I arrived, spot on the dot at 6am, to learn that during the first night of picking, the harvester had broken down!!!  

Although this small crisis meant that we did not receive the large tonnage that had been predicted for the first day, we still managed to process about 45 tonnes of verdelho grapes from suppliers on the neighbouring property.  It was quite exciting to hear the rumbling sounds of the machinery all starting up for the first time this season, and seeing everyone settling into their newly-designated areas/roles.

I have been assigned the role of 'yeast girl' which means that my primary accountabilities will be culturing the yeast and inoculating the fermentations, as well as performing other chemical additions to the wine, as directed by the winemakers.  I'm very happy to have been allocated to this area, as it is quite a complex and variable area, with different addition methods, temperature requirements, gas requirements and sampling regimes. It should hopefully allow me to gain a good insight into the type of decisions that the winemakers are responsible for, as well as keeping me on my toes.  

Yeast work doesn't really kick off for another week or so, once enough juices have been processed and collected.  Today, however, I was privileged to be responsible for the first 'addition' of the season.  This involved adding some enzymes and acid to the freshly pressed verdelho juice, whilst sparging it with gas to mix.  The reason for the additions?
  • Enzymes - removal of any stem, seed and skin components that are present in the wine after pressing. They assist solids (termed 'lees') to settle to the bottom of the tank, thus separating them from the grape juice above.
  • Acid - is added to grape juice when a chemical analysis shows that the Total Acidity level is lacking.  This often occurs in grapes that have experienced hot, dry weather in the lead up to harvesting.

Shiny Clean Tanks Waiting for their Juice
So I guess you might be wondering whether the harvester will be back up and running tonight?  So am I.  Only tomorrow will tell!