As the morning sun rises over the lush vineyards, Sydney's excitement bubbles like the effervescence in a freshly opened bottle of sparkling wine. In a winemaker's life, every day holds the promise of new discoveries, from the first sniff of a fermenting barrel to the satisfying pop of a cork after months of aging. With a keen sense of taste and a nose that can detect even the subtlest aroma, Join Sydney as she gets the low down from Marlborough's Isabel Estate as she spends a couple days with the team, you will be taken on a journey through a typical day in the life of a winemaker, where each step is an adventure in exploring the complex flavors and aromas that make wine a true elixir of the gods. So grab a glass, and let's uncork the magic of winemaking with Sydney as our guide!
During harvest, there is a team of winemakers working together. Chief winemaker at Isabel Estate, Jeremy McKenzie, is busy 24/7. He will be down in Central Otago looking at fruit for other wines, whilst managing the fruit and major decisions on site at Isabel in Marlborough. Isabel Estate has staff on site 24 hours a day during peak harvest times. The Isabel Estate winemaker, Sebastian, will be at the winery at 6am to plan out the next days’ jobs and connect with the nightshift winemaker. That is the only routine there is during harvest.
Every day is completely different. Some days there will be 5 trucks of fruit coming, and other days, none at all. There are many different tasks constantly happening at the winery so not everyone will be focused on incoming grapes. In my two days of visiting, staff were receiving fruit, loading and operating presses, cleaning tanks, transferring wines, racking off juice, washing and filling barrels, pulsing and doing pump overs for reds and so as you can tell, there is quite a big variety of tasks.
There is always something different going on each day. Harvest is an interesting time, as it can be weather dependent. Picking times and plans can change in a matter of hours. With the use of machine harvested fruit, the trucks can come at 2am, or 4pm, it can all change! As you can tell, managing a winery during harvest time can be difficult. Head winemakers have lots of decisions to make that will affect the wines long term in a small window of time at the beginning of the winemaking process.
The day shift runs from 7am - 7pm and night shift 7pm - 7am. The staff do 12 hour shifts and the winemakers are usually doing 12-16 hour days. It is a busy time of the year and a lot of hard work is done to create all the beautiful wines we enjoy at our leisure. After a shift, the team will get together and have a beer. Occasionally, they will have a team dinner at 7pm so both shifts can enjoy a meal together. Working in a winery creates a very close knit community as you can tell, they spend all of their time together.