A thrill accompanies the decision to bring them in ! It signals the start of long, hot and sometimes bothered harvesting days and excitement overload. There’s an eagerness as each batch comes up to the winery, as block by block the early morning harvesting teams move in to set about harvesting grapes. And then its late 7-day weeks as the winery team set about crushing and pressing to make wine.
Growing wine grapes is precision farming as not only are the initial set-up costs for a vineyard high, but daily management also has to be efficient and effective otherwise you can burn cash rapidly. The vineyard team are trained for exactness of every task to hand, encompassed by the term canopy management. The leaves, shoots and fruit on a vine require constant attention through the year with techniques such as pruning, bunch and shoot thinning, leaf and shoot removal and shoot positioning. Each plant has to be looked after to enable at least 25 years of production, if nothing untoward happens to it. At all times a viticulturist is focussed on a vine’s ability to consume nutrients through its root system, process these via photosynthesis into oxygen and energy and translocate these to the fruit growing areas.
There’s a lot to look after if you consider on average 2500 individual single vines are planted on a hectare (which is the average size of an international rugby field). And let’s say an average estate planted to vines is 60ha (of possibly 140ha in total size) that’s around 150 000 vines – each needing special attention. Great passion and strong resolve are indeed the working tools.