Harvest is always the most stressful time of the year. There is an urgent need to get the fruit off the vines as fast as possible to ensure the optimal level of ripeness. Needless to say, when time is of the essence my blood pressure starts to rise – usually in synchronicity with the sun. We always start at day break when the fruit is cool and then hope for overcast days – however it doesn’t always unfold as planned.
We rely on a series of elements that must all be in place, like clockwork, to ensure the best outcome – pickers, wranglers, transport, weather, drivers, equipment and even the morning tea and lunch breaks at the local cold store all need to come together in a kind of grand design. One unforeseen failure in one element can be catastrophic.
This year, we started harvest with a cool morning but a day promising heat. We rushed to grab the Sauvignon Blanc and the second day the Chardonnay, as fast as we could. We were low on pickers so the race was on and everyone worked hard to make up for the lack of labour to finish the job. With the harvest of the Pinot the following day, we were racing against a cold front which was sweeping through the hills – backed by strong winds and heavy rain – all part of living in a micro-climate. The last bin was ferried away to the cold store just as the first drops started to fall. Perfect timing, but in a vineyard you need to be wary of hubris and so I’ll just say this time I was lucky. And harvest all completed in three days!
As mentioned before, the fruit looks extremely promising; lower yields, but from talking to other winemakers in the region it seems a common trend this vintage.
I’m planning on making extra quantities of my Pinot Noir based Rosè, the Piccadilly Sunrise, this year to avoid disappointing all of you who either missed out or ran dry after stocks were ravenously devoured by new and loyal supporters. Also, I’m producing a little extra Sauvignon Blanc to satisfy demand and I suspect this vintage, based on fruit quality, will be one of my best.
Chardonnay also looks strong and initial juice characteristics extremely promising. The Pinot Noir, bubbling away in its open fermenters, needs regular plunging which reminds me of witches’ cauldrons where spells and magic are made – there is of course the occasional curse muttered.
2018 looks like it will be a standout vintage for the Adelaide Hills and especially the Piccadilly Valley. There is still a lot to do, but for the time being the vineyard can rest while I get to work.