4.23pm, Tuesday 12th February, The Grape Lab, Yalumba, Angaston , Eden Valley, SA
Afternoon, folks, and it’s all going grape-picking crazy here in the Barossa. Grape ripening slows right down in heatwave conditions, but these last 10 warm days with cool to cold nights are exactly what vines like to get absolutely cracking … pumping sugar into the berries at a rate of knots. So all that fruit that has been meandering along ripening at a reasonably steady rate of about 1 degree Baume of sugar each week – has taken off! Now we’re seeing increases of 2 – 2.5 degrees Baume in a week, so everyone’s out there sampling vineyards at a rate of knots to see where they’re at, and for our winemakers to decide what to pick and when – which means for our grapegrower liaison man which vineyards need to have machine or hand harvesting arranged – and when those vineyards are going to be scheduled to go through the crushers and presses. So it’s all action around here at the moment! There’s steam coming off the small crusher that all the grape samples are put through – a record high of 174 vineyard samples were tested yesterday, with much the same story today.
As soon as each sample is crushed, the juice is separated and gets checked for sugar, acid and balance (pH), and the winemakers look at flavour and aroma development. As each subsequent sampling is tested, you’re basically tracking the way that each vineyard is ripening, then as soon as the decision is made to ‘pick now’… then the fun begins!
In an absolutely textbook perfect year – haven’t seen one yet – the weather would cooperate in such a way as to allow each vineyard to be picked at the optimum moment, then through the winery with all equipment, manpower and tank or barrel space just sitting there ready to go as required. We get close a lot of the time, but this season, if the weather continues with warm days and cool nights, it’s all just going to start tumbling in and we’re going to see a lot of folks doing some long hours to make sure that every vineyard and its fruit gets the attention it deserves! The good thing in all of this is that it looks like the fruit estimates are a good deal down compared to what is actually on the vines, so having smaller volumes coming in will be help keep everything separate.
Here’s what the samples today looked like – lots of Chardonnay, Riesling, Vermentino and Viognier in the whites – and a lot of Barossa Floor Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Shiraz.
As I said at the start of the post … it’s all go now!