By Jen Pfeiffer
Autumn is both a beautiful and vibrant time around the local wineries, as it is our vintage (the grape harvest). The vineyards around Rutherglen are awash with green, yellow and red foliage as the leaves change colour and fall off depending on their variety.
Vintage normally starts in early to mid February, however if the season starts off with increased rainfall figures and cooler temperatures, vintage will start for most in late February, early March.
Generally, white varieties are harvested first, followed by lighter red varieties to the heavier red varieties, and finishing with fortified varieties. The grapes can either be harvested by hand or machine (depending on the winemaker’s preference, the age of the vines, etc).
Time of harvest is dependent on the maturity of the fruit, with sugar levels and acidity important as well as fruit flavour.
Once the grapes are harvested, they are processed so that fermentation (the conversion of sugar to alcohol) can occur. Red wines are fermented on their skins (to extract colour and flavour), while white juices are removed from the skins for fermentation.
During fermentation, each individual wine is tasted and analysed daily, and winemaking decisions like yeast selection, acid addition and fermentation temperature are made.
What makes it so exciting is that in the yearly cycle of wine production, once vintage starts, that’s the one chance we have to make great wine until the next autumn rolls around. It is one big adrenalin rush for a winemaker!!!!
We have many tough vintages of late and these definitely put our winemaking skills to the test, but there is always that sense of excitement, that anticipation for the next great wine!