The 'Glamorous' side of Winemaking
It's raining, and pretty cold in Stellenbosch today. You can feel the onset of winter creeping up on things. The leaves on the vines are all quickly changing from green to gold and red, following which they will drop off and leave the vines naked and ready for pruning later in the season.
It occurs that this is the least 'glamorous' time of the year to be in the wine business. Glamorous is of course a relative term- most people toiling at the coalface of the wine industry would suggest in no uncertain terms that such a descriptor rarely applies to what we do.
But the days post vintage where the energies invested in processing grapes and making edgy choices about harvesting dates are in the past would certainly qualify as being at the more mundane end of the excitement scale. Nonetheless, they are extremely important, critical in fact from a quality point of view. It is a time where wines that have finished ferment are transferred into barrel, where tanks are being cleaned out, barrels topped up- the menial, nuts and bolts, behind the scenes activities that are integral to every quality wine producer's ability to bring their brand to market.
And someone has to do the job. This means long hours and repetitive work, but attention to detail is paramount. Mind's need to be in the right place. At this moment too, our assistant winemaker Wikus is laid up in hospital after a 4.5 hour operation on his leg. Wikus would normally be in charge of all these duties, and overseeing things to make sure that they are performed and finished in the right way. He's not here, but fortunately for us we have some great help in Sylvester and Ntando to take up the slack.
Sylvester has been with us for a couple of years now, a young guy who is developing into an important part of the Dombeya team. He's going to be doing some study later this year to sharpen his skills and wine knowledge, and Ntando is our 2009 Dombeya Scholarship recipient who is back from a work and study trip in Australia and is spending some time with us whilst she looks around for further opportunities in the wine industry.
Carrying buckets of wine around, climbing ladders, and moving hoses- not quite what the glossy magazines would have you believe winemaking is all about!
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