Once more Miles Edlmann drops in, this time to share his observations on vintage life:
It doesn’t matter how modern, well-designed and efficient a winery might be, or how skilful the winemaker is, because there is still one other factor (often overlooked) which is absolutely critical to the success of the vintage. The harvest can be a very stressful time for all involved; in the smaller wineries we have to work long hours throughout the day and still be ready to spring into action at night should the fermentations need attention. This intense rhythm is kept up without a break from the moment the first grape is picked until we fortify the last lagar of the year – usually three or four weeks later.
It can be a bit of a pressure-cooker, and the language that flies around is about as purple as the musts. I suspect that even oil rig workers and deep-sea trawlermen would blush if they joined us during a moment of high stress. But, with the right mix of people, the pressure can also create great solidarity, and that is why picking a good team of cellar hands is so absolutely essential.
This vintage I have been lucky enough to be able to reunite the vast majority of last year’s crew but there is usually one element that changes each year – the work experience kid. This year we have been blessed by not one, but two – Helen and Dan. They have driven out here from Plumpton College in East Sussex, where they are studying winemaking, to help us out with the harvest. They have rapidly become integral members of the team but for different reasons.
Helen appears to have walked straight in from a Vogue fashion shoot, modelling ‘winery chic’. She has long legs and appears to have only packed a nice line in shorts which can be distracting for the male members of the staff now that the infamous Vintage Fever has taken a grip. She has become particularly adept at collecting must samples from the incoming grapes, a process which basically involves climbing on top of the lorries, once again improving the general outlook at our small winery. Dan looks like a blond Ewok and has introduced the chaps to an extremely good limoncello which he makes in a bucket. It’s hard to overstate the importance of their respective contributions…