IT’S HARVEST SEASON!
This is the most exciting (and the most exhausting) time of the year for Australian wine growers.
Some call it “vintage,” and some call it “harvest” but it all means the same thing: it’s time to get the grapes off the vines, and start making delicious, Australian wine.
After a rather dry Summer, with a few heatwaves striking South Australia’s famous wine growing regions; The Eden Valley, The Barossa Valley and The Clare Valley; this year’s grapes are still looking fantastic, with Shiraz, Grenache and Riesling looking particularly strong so far.
However, the grapes are only the beginning, and the winemaking process has only just begun! Here’s a quick guide to explain how our grapes will end up in your glass:
As technology has advanced, modern vineyards now use mechanical harvesters to pluck the ripened grapes from their vines. However, many traditional vineyards prefer their grapes picked by hand, for fear of damaging the fruit.
So, with a sudden need for more fruit-pickers, the South Australian countryside is currently alive with accents and languages from all around the world, as backpackers flock to the region for fruit-picking jobs.
CRUSHING AND PRESSING
When you think of winemaking, you probably imagine the old image of people stomping the grapes with their feet. While it still occurs in some families as a form of tradition, it’s not common. These days, grapes are all crushed and pressed with modern (and clean) mechanical presses.
To produce white wines, the grapes are quickly pressed and the juice is separated from the grape skins. However, for red wines, the grape skins and the grape juice are left in contact for longer.
Due to the yeasts in country air, natural fermentation can start to occur within a few hours. However, most winemakers now use cultured yeasts to better control the winemaking process.
The yeast consumes the sugar in the grape juice and converts it into alcohol. Once the sugar has all been converted, then the grape juice becomes dry wine.
It sounds like something straight out of your high school chemistry class, but this step could also be referred to as “filtering.”
This step removes unwanted particles such as yeast cells, tannins and proteins, to ensure that the wine is free from radicals that may adversely affect the ageing process. Think of it like making coffee in a French/plunger press – it removes all of the bits that you don’t want to drink.
Once the winemaker is happy with the filtered liquid, then the wine can be bottled straight away.
However, the winemaker may also choose to age the wine further to produce a smoother wine. This can be done in the bottle, but red wines will usually be aged in traditional oak barrels, and white wines will often be aged and aired in modern steel tanks.
This final part of the process is entirely up to the individual winemaker, depending on what kind of wine they hope to produce.
Likewise, once the win has aged and bottled, the winemaker will choose between a traditional cork closure or a modern screw cap.
From there, these incredible Australian wines will travel thousands of kilometres – even over vast oceans – to end up in a glass on your table, and enjoyed with family or friends.
So, the next time you enjoy one of our wines, raise a glass to the winemaker; as it’s their hard work that makes our wines as delicious as they are.