• Sarah & Ste

#vintage2018 Moment of brilliance

Updated: Apr 8, 2018

So things had been running along pretty well, but if you have read my last couple of posts you will know that we had been bucketing the grapes from the picking bins to the press. It really doesn't take that long, however if you think about how many 20kg buckets (and they would not be completely full!) that it takes to bucket 1.5T into the crusher, that is a damn lot of buckets! ...and it can be back breaking work.

However... now we were faced with the prospect of assisting our friend Jason with his next 3+ tonne Verdelho pick!!! Now that really is a lot of buckets!

No matter what we tried , straps, wooden beams, steal rods, you name it we thought of it, but the feet just would not stay on the old picking bins we were using, so that they could be tipped. The aim was simple, tip the fruit into the crusher without the whole bin going in with it, the reality was not so simple.

It was not only the work load that was daunting either. To maintain the premium fresh flavours in the fruit (and to save heaps on the electricity!) you really want the fruit to go in the crusher as cold as possible and that means as quickly as possible after it has been picked.

Now Verdelho is a grape that is better to machine harvest. Firstly like almost all whites you want it to be super cold when it comes in as I mentioned, so if picking with a headlamp on from midnight until 6am is not your thing then the machine is what you are after. Not only that, it is an extra hard variety to pick with small, vibrant green bunches, many tucked well up inside the canopy, and this can slow the process down even more.

So, generally, once it is picked the harvester tips its big steel bucket carefully into the picking bins, which are then to be transported up to the winery. This pick and most of the rest of the white picks would be done on the property and in a moment of brilliance Jason suggested that he could tip the harvester directly into the crusher! I was sceptical that the big machine could be precise enough to manage this delicate task, and also whether or not the crusher throat could stick out of the winery doors far enough to allow this to happen, but I was very keen to see if it could work!

We steered the somewhat wobbly old crusher into place. It wasn't going to work. There was no way that harvester could get enough clearance from the roof to mange! There was a little step at the front, only an inch lower that the main floor but maybe if we could chock it with some wood on the step we could do it. It still seemed touch and go to me until we realised chute over the throat of the crusher could also be put on the other way around giving us a few more much needed centimetres. Maybe...just maybe...

I suggested a water run first but it was getting late. the harvester still had to be readied and sleep was needed before the early morning start.

We were up before the sun, ready, albeit a little anxious, to fling open the winery doors and test it out.

The timing was perfect, just as we managed to get all of the pumps and lines in place and the tank set up, Jason came rattling down the gravel road from the vineyard blocks with the first full load.

Luckily for him his trailer reversing skills with the harvester were spot on and we all stood with eyes glued to the chute waiting to see if we could manage it!

Perfection! Nailed it! What a moment.

Fresh cold Verdelho spilled in a neat little spout from the shiny silver bucket into the noisy, rattling crusher waiting below without a drop going over the side!

One more run in the vineyard and it would be all in the press before breakfast time! That was a definite win in my books!

So with this, I raise a glass to Jason, and I just had to make note of this little achievement here. Any one who has worked in a wine cellar will know the significance of this little moment of brilliance. Salute!



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