Winemaking, like all forms of agriculture, is dependent on the seasons and the weather. And winemakers, like farmers, have a fairly laid-back attitude to life. They realise after one or two years on the job that you have to roll with the punches and do the best you can with what nature provides.
In late February or early March you will find winemakers throughout the region hard at work picking grapes and preparing their vintage for the year.
This year – 2017 – an abundance of rain means that Harvest, as it’s known, will run later than usual. With last year’s vintage being the earliest it had been in 35 years (picking took place in February), it’s felt like a long wait for all the Heathcote vignerons this year.
Natala Flynn, from Flynn’s Wines, is right in the middle of their Harvest. The Verdelho grapes have recently been picked and soon it will be time for the red varieties. Natala admits the rain has definitely helped. “Last year was so dry and that takes a lot of nutritional content from the soil,” she explains. “This year, it’s really balanced. We’ve got a good canopy and plenty of fruit.”
Of course, as with all crops, Natala is quick to point out that you can’t assume everything will be perfect. “We never count our chickens,” she laughs. “In the past we’ve had hail storms or excessive rain the day before we pick and that change’s everything. Right now, we’re just trying to keep the birds away until picking.”
Flynn’s James Flynn Wine Club has special benefits for members, allowing them to be involved in the process. “Each member has the opportunity to come along and be a wine maker for the day. They have a one-on-one with Greg and can completely immerse themselves in winemaking– picking, plunging, pressing or some other aspect. I think once people see the work that goes in to creating wine, they develop a new appreciation for it.”
You can also 'Rent a Row' at The Shiraz Republic. 'we’ve been helping citizens to make wine on site at The Shiraz Republic through our Rent-A-Row experiential gift packages. The aim is to share the joy of winemaking with those who have not yet experienced it themselves. This has been everything from sharing our facilities with budding vignerons to hosting fun social days with our new citizens. 2016 saw us host 18 different Rent-A-Row recipients through the winemaking process and with media attention from The Age, ABC & Weekly Times, the future is bright.'
It sounds like this Harvest will be providing plenty of that work for our local winemakers – we wish them all a fine vintage!