Harvest is just around the corner: we anticipate our first grapes within about 3 weeks. A large part of harvest preparation is about cleaning: anything that can or will get in contact with the grapes and the wine needs a very thorough cleaning regime. The tanks have to be spotless inside and out to prevent any form of contamination, and the same applies to pumps, hoses and all connections and fittings, as well as both presses. This reminds me that I need to inventory stock to ensure I still have plenty of cleaning agents on hand. The below press is ready to go, it’s been thoroughly cleaned and mechanically tested to ensure that the bladder retains pressure as it should.
Another part of harvest preparation is to make sure that all winemaking supplies are in, or on order: yeasts (for those who inoculate their must/juice, like I do), nutrients, miscellaneous agents (for example, I might use enzymes to clarify the must prior to fermentation, and/or other agents to clarify the wine after fermentation). This year we’ll be harvesting from blocks with low yields so we placed the odd order for some small tanks so we can work each lot separately. Unfortunately, these tanks come with fittings that require retrofitting to be compatible with our existing pipework: the new fittings are 1 inch (everything else is 2 inches), and are BSP, British Standard Pipe (everything else is in SMS, which is a standard used in the Swedish dairy industry, or in DIN, widely used in Germany). With new adapters and reducers there is going to be plenty to connect. Fortunately I excelled at playing with Meccano as a kid!
The lab is set-up, but needs to be fully commissioned prior to receiving fruit. We’ll run some analysis to make sure all equipment is calibrated and functions properly, and that we get consistent, precise, and accurate results whomever the operator is. That is a crucial point, because decisions during harvest need to be taken fast based on these results.
Even with all the time in the world to prepare for harvest, unpredictable things can and do occur. There’s always the fear that something’s missing, and I’ve been known to pop out of bed in the middle of the night with thoughts of fittings, cleaning agents, additives, and, yes, even sponges. It all adds to the mania and excitement of harvest. So, bring it on 2015, let’s see what you’ve got.
Jonathan Médard – Winemaker