On the 30th of March 2012, we started our harvest. The first grapes picked were from St. Martin Vineyards from Martinborough. Perfect ripe Chardonnay grapes at sugar levels of around 12,7 % vol alc. for our Methode Traditionelle. Some very ripe berries even had sugar levels up to 26 Brix.
It is definitely a sign that the Harvest is over when you see the nets being rolled up and then checked for holes. The team at Joner are sharpening up their sewing skills and armed with string & a nifty finger knife they are onto the next job, net mending.
A pleasant task when the sun is out but now the mornings are getting very chilly you can imagine they do not enjoy this stationary work in the cold. Today is a lovely sunny day so there are smiles all around.
It appears that there are more holes then usual as with the higher rainfall over Harvest and the diligent watering done prior, the growth was a lot more than other years. As the nets were removed the team had to carefully pull the foliage off the nets as tractor was winding them in. Now the job is to check & mend the nets before storing, so all will be ready when the time comes to put the nets on again. It is good to see that both the men & women are working together on this and we notice that one of the team has the prime spot sitting on the tractor!!
One of the big problems in the wine industry is pests. Wasps and bees attack the grapes and damage the berries. They make a hole and suck the juice and this makes the juice oxidize and go brown. If you pick such grapes and use them to make wine it will change the colour of the wine and the smell. As the wasps and bees attacks sporadically it makes the grapes difficult to select. Luckily here at Johner we hand harvest so our team are always on the alert for grape damage and they are careful to only select the best grapes. You can be assured that they also keep a wary eye out for these pests as they sure have a nasty sting.
So far our Kiwi Grant is winning the “How many stings?” Competition, 3 times – ouch!! Johannes is glad he has only been stung once!
A few days ago Karl inspected the grapes at Little Vineyards. Karl keeps a close eye on the grapes and is checking for the level of ripeness. This vineyard is situated just east of Masterton on limestone soil and is owned by Nick Dench. Karl makes his wines, and they are under Nick Dench’s label of “Little Vineyards of Wairarapa”
Our top of the range Cabernet & Merlot “Lyndor” is sourced from a vineyard not far from Nick Dench’s Pinot Noir. The grapes were first planted in the clay limestone soil in 1986. It is one of the oldest established vineyards north of Martinborough.
In order to express the true terroir of our vineyard we do use some indigenous yeast from the vineyard. This means we have to collect some of the juice after being pressed and put the juice with out any other addition in to the warmth, and the warmest place at the moment happens to be the kitchen. This ideal temperature will encourage the multiplication of the natural yeast. Once they are going they can get out of hand and froth away into overflow, as you can see by the picture – it simply makes a mess on the floor!
As the Sauvignon Blanc grapes continue to come into the winery today, they are quickly taken care of and will soon be fermenting in the barrels.
This weekend weather permitting we will continue to pick our youngest Pinot Noir vines. Already we have a tank full of Pinot Noir fermenting. Now we need to supervise temperatures and occasionally cool down a little to prevent stuck ferments.
It is important that there is no rain for our harvesting of Pinot Noir, so keep your fingers crossed for us!
Our Sauvignon Blanc grapes continue to be harvested even though we are having a few spots of rain and the temperature is rather chilly, they tell me there is a sprinkling of snow on the tops of the Tararua mountains. Not a wonder it is a little chilly! It is uplifting when the sun manages to break through the clouds.
In the winery the Sauvignon grapes are destemmed as they arrive in and then softly crushed. All this juice, seeds & skins get a soft press so we can get lots of lovely juice. The mouth starts to water just to think of all that lovely Sauvignon Blanc wine which will eventually be made with our wine makers tender loving care. Two young French men, Antoine & Laurent are picking for us for the first time in New Zealand. They have a lot of expertise as they have been working in their parents vineyards since they were 7 or 8 years of age. Their vineyards are 15 ks north of Colmar, Alsace and only 1 k away from the very beautiful medieval city of Riquewihr which is surrounded by a very vineyard. They have come to NZ to see the country, improve their English and see the techniques used here at our vineyard. They plan to return home to continue to work on the family vineyard with the hope that they will take over and make wonderful wine.
As the morning dew lifted the sun welcomed the harvest team when they went to C4 block to pick the first of the Sauvignon grapes. Only a few hours later a short southerly snap swept quickly through the Wairarapa valley bringing rain. Luckily it was soon gone and the harvest continued. This year a team of enthusiastic young German & French students are helping us picking all grapes by hand. With the temperatures on the cool side this morning it seems to be ideal working conditions. As the grapes are cut from the vines they are gently placed into crates. When full the grapes are put into bins and transported into the cellar.
All is going well and we expect to move soon onto A block, with the Sauvignon grapes all being harvested sometime next week. As yet no one has been stung by the wasps or bees! Sabrina says she is happy to be here and as it is her first time picking grapes she finds it much more interesting than reading about it in a book.