The vineyard is beautiful in Autumn. The leaves are yellow, a sort of luminous lime and orange with some deep red patches; the veins map themselves in different colours again. The leaves vary between the reds (Pinot Noir and Pinot Menuier) and of course the Chardonnay and Seyval are the most yellow. The effect is a sort of rainbow across the slope.It’s both an anxious and exciting time with harvest. When you have to pick, you have to pick. In an ideal world the sugar level would be higher, but the chlorophyll is not longer active to create it. If we leave the grapes any longer they’ll rot or Albury Vineyard will be entering the Ice Wine market. (Which it’s not intending to do.)
The red for the Rosé was picked on the last Saturday of October; the very ripest of the Pinots were harvested by hand. During the week I helped harvest the rest of the ripe Pinots for the bubbly: up and down the rows, nipp the bunch at the main stalk, put the bunch in the bucket, empty the bucket in the crates placed throughout the rows. Sometimes you snip out lone green grapes in a bunch or some Botrytis (bunch rot), but on the whole the grapes are looking very heathly. The fruit isn’t exactly in the ideal place ergonomically, so the trick is to minimise your movement and make sure you’re not holding your body in some weird way that’ll make it impossible to move the next day. But I’m confident this is easier than crouching down to harvest the bush vines in Southern Rhone.
Chasing you as you pick is the skinny vineyard tractor and trailer. The grapes want to get to the winery as soon as possible to be pressed – that way you retain as much of the flavour as possible. I also helped out here, loading the crates on the trailer. Not the easiest on your back because the trailer keeps moving ahead of you and there’s not enough room between the rows to walk alongside it. But as long as you aim to ‘bend se knees’! A full crate of grapes can weigh up to 10 kilograms and we sent about nine tonnes to the winery in the two days I was there.
It’s physical work, but rewarding. All the pruning, leaf trimming, spraying, getting up in the middle of the night to ward off a frost – the fruits of your labour are here and now and you can’t do anymore (for this year). Sadly we have to wait until next year to taste the Rosé and at least 2016 for the bubbly.
If there’s one thing you are in viticulture, it’s patient.