It was hard to believe, but the end was already in site! We had safely put to bed the first two of our wines, as well as numerous others we had been working on for local producers, and our now final pick was on the door step.
It was the 31st of January, we had scheduled in the pick of our Sangiovese for the following evening, the grapes were just where we wanted them in terms of ripeness and flavour and they were super clean and ready to go!
We had so far had a perfect vintage in terms of weather, with barely a single drop of rain touching the fruit, but the next day was February and February is not a time for being careless about the weather.
We went to bed that night pretty positive, although wary of a few weather fronts slowly moving our way, but I was looking forward to having the last of our fruit in the winery. At around midnight however I was woken by the awful sound of drops clanging loudly on my roof. I quickly grabbed my phone and checked the radar on the BOM app, which holds number one spot on my phone during harvest time. It was patchy but there was definitely storms around, they had arrived early, and it looked like they were going to persist for at least 3 or 4 days. I had been hoping they would hold off for another couple at least. I lay back down, barely sleeping the rest of the night, hoping that the little vineyard our fruit was coming from would be spared.
As soon as it was a civil hour to do so I sent a message to our grower to find out the damage. They had had a little rain but the fruit was still in good condition, and the ground had not taken up a lot of water as it had been so dry previously, so, the dilution at this stage would have been none to minimal. However, we had planned to pick along side him as he was picking some of his other fruit for himself but he had decided not to go ahead with his pick and would wait out the period until after the storms had passed. His fruit was on the earlier side of the ripening window, and that evening was showing more rain, so he was happy to wait, but our fruit was just where we wanted it.
So we had a decision to make. Go down and pick the fruit on our own with no crew or wait out the weather as well.
We knew it was too risky. We had to pick.
Luckily our good friend Jason and his son volunteered to help, along with Stefano's dad who was quickly becoming a seasoned professional at this last minute picking scenario, and the five of us gathered up snips and buckets and jumped in the car to head down and get that fruit off a.s.a.p. The nets hadn't even been taken off yet, so we knew it was going to be a long process lifting them all off by hand before we picked, but it had to be done.
There is always the niggling fear that you have made the wrong call, and that maybe we should have waited and let grapes get themselves back into balance for a few days after the rain, but, as soon as we arrived I knew it was the right decision. The bunches were still beautiful, the soft white bloom was still covering the berries and there was no sign of any damage or water uptake. The grapes would almost fall off the bunches into the buckets as perfect bouncy little balls as you held the bunch with one hand and snipped the stalk with the other so you had to place the bucket carefully underneath not to lose any precious berries. They were perfect now but they would not have been happy with 3 or 4 days of rain.
So we slogged it out up and down the long, low cropping rows, for close to 5 hours to lift the nets and pick our prized 600kgs of fruit. We were tired and sore by the time we finished but it was worth it.
We took our yield back to the winery and still had to get it crushed and into the fermentation vat that afternoon, but that really was the easy part. We wanted to get the most out of the delicious primary fruit flavours the grapes had been showing, so we had planned to gas down the tank and seal it up with the cooling on to cold soak the fruit for a few days before we started the ferment, which meant we knew tomorrow at least would be a day of rest, and a day of celebration. We checked the numbers and luckily they were still perfect. They had not taken up any water and the baume was still as it had been on our check the day before picking. We could not have been happier.
We had been so busy inside the winery crushing and cleaning and checking and with all the noise we hadn't even noticed outside. As we emerged late that afternoon we realised the sky was black and it had already started drizzling again, and as we jumped in the car to head home, the heavens opened up on us and unleashed the heaviest down pour we had seen in months. We looked at each other and smiled! We had done it. The weather could do as it pleased now, this was the last 2018 parcel of fruit to go through our new little communal winery. We had finished!
As I taste through each month I think about the possibilities of what could have happened if we had waited and not put in the effort to rush down that day, but it doesn't bare thinking about. Our little barrels of Sangiovese are beautiful, with delicious aromas and flavours and fantastic palate weight and structure.
The harvest gods had smiled on us for vintage 2018! With the help of our friends and fellow wine producers in the region our new little wine venture has started off better than we could have ever expected and I honestly think we have started something special.