Friday, April 4, 2008

Chardonnay Harvest at Waiheke Island

The Department of Chemistry at the University of Auckland is also home to the Wine Science program. Evidently people come from all over the world to study wine science here. We were lucky enough to get invited to join the chardonnay grape harvest from the University's Fossil Bay Vineyard on Waiheke Island this fall. The nets on the vines above are to keep the birds from eating the grapes - they sneak in regardless and clean out the first 3 or so plants on each end.

Before picking, we were given our instructions (if you would not eat it, don't put it in the wine), a basket, and some wimpy looking clippers. The leader predicted, based on previous years, that of the 20 or so pickers, 4 or 5 would end up with a nasty self-inflicted cut from the clippers. We were warned not to cut anything we couldn't see. We were also told not to worry too much, as they had a fully stocked first aid kit and plasters (bandaids). At the end of our training session I no longer thought of clippers as wimpy.

I sampled the grapes, and was surprised how sweet they were. We went down the rows clipping grape bunches, picking off any bad looking grapes and throwing the rest in the basket- stems, raisins, fruit flies and all. P was banned from using the dangerous clippers so she hand-picked grapes, read her book and brought us drinks, snacks, and news from the group. It wasn't long before B sheepishly admitted that he clipped his finger and was bleeding badly enough that he required a plaster. He said it happened just like they said it would- he was reaching behind a grape bunch to clip it and the next thing he knew he was bleeding. One victim had to be rushed off to the island medical center. Now I was actually afraid of my clippers! At the end of the day, as predicted, 5 people ended up with self-inflicted wounds from the clippers!

The grapes went straight from the vine to a press at a local winery (we were sad we didn't get to stomp them). The juice went into a temperature controlled holding tank until it could be transferred to the university and barreled. The wine science students pair up and each pair is responsible for turning one barrel of grape juice into wine. At the end it is bottled and sold at a fund raiser. This years grape harvest is the biggest yet for the wine science department. They estimate they will get 600 liters of wine at the end.

We celebrated our first wine harvest and first trip to Waiheke Island by spending the rest of the day at the beach at Oneroa on before catching the ferry for home.

1 comment:

Adrianne said...

I loved this story! and maybe because they make it look like so much fun in the movies- i have always wanted to climb in the huge vat and stomp the grapes with my feet! love that B cut his finger. Classic!!