All grown up…

Wine / Wednesday, February 28th, 2024

You’ll be happy to know that the first of our Vintage 2024 fruit made it off the vines and safely into the winery last weekend.

And the way the weather has been lately (warm and sunny) it’s not going to take long for the rest of them to follow suit!

I checked in with Rob to find out how it all went and this is what he had to say…


We have quite a bit happening and about to happen!

First pick was a small amount of pinot from Alister McMichael’s vineyard at Hahndorf. Then Kim Anderson hand picked a batch of pinot on Saturday. Both these batches went into the cold room and were pressed on Sunday. Rob was really happy with the juice, although due to the relatively small bunches, the extraction rate was a low (as he predicted last week).

Rob and Paul Henschke did some field tests on his pinot on Friday and Saturday – then Paul was miraculously able to bring in a picking team on Sunday. Unfortunately it was a catastrophically low yielding crop. Bunches were tiny. They averaged 33g per bunch. They’re normally up around 70-80g! Nonetheless it was in the cold room Sunday night, and pressed Tuesday evening. The fruit was a little bit riper than Rob had hoped for, and with the small bunches, there’s a bit more colour in the juice than usual. Perhaps look out for a slight tinge of pink in the 2024 sparkling!!

Kim Anderson harvested his sauvignon blanc last night (that will be delivered to the winery today). He will pick chardonnay on Friday and then Alister will pick a small amount of chardonnay on Sunday night.

Pinot noir for dry red along with tempranillo for LDR won’t be far off being ready to pick. The tempranillo destined for our Picnic Races Red will stay on the vine a little longer than the LDR fruit.

McLaren Vale shiraz is about 10 days away.


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This week, I wanted to quickly bring you up to speed on a topic we have definitely covered before. But as usual, I think it’s worth revisiting some of these bigger, more important aspect of vintage as they’re happening in real life.  Not just for the blog new-comers, but also just in case there are any people out there like me who forget things as soon as I’m told!

At the very least it will give you something to chat about at your next diner party (and look like an expert!)!

The topic I’m talking about it…

How do winemakers know when to pick their fruit?


Growers, viticulturists and wine-makers are all paying VERY close attention to what is happening in the vineyard at the moment. They will be regularly taking samples of grapes to test for maturity.

To get a representative sample, it’s important to pick several bunches from different vines across the rows.

Best practice is to pick around 20 bunches per plot. And to select the bunches as randomly as possible. Which admittedly is pretty hard to do when you’re a human. Our eyes automatically go to the big, fat bunches (those ones are also easier to see amongst the foliage). But the idea is to try and select bunches that are representative of the entire plot. So, the ripe ones as well as the ones that are a bit further behind. And this season in particular, the ones that show signs of “hen and chicken”. This method will result in juice which is pretty similar to what it would be if you picked the entire plot.

Some of you may remember that a couple of years back, my “assistant” (a.k.a. my viticulturalist husband) was doing some work at a small vineyard down the hill. This particular plot was set up with rows of several different varieties growing side by side. It was so great to be able to see how each variety progressed though the growing season.

I managed to score a sample of each variety and test them in my “laboratory” (a.k.a. my kitchen!).

Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough grapes on the rows in that plot to sample 20 bunches, but one or two bunches will still give us an idea of how mature the grapes are.

Here is a photo of the varieties side by side so you can see the differences in shape and size.

From top left to bottom right the varieties are… 

Vermentino, Grenache, Merlot, Tempranillo, Riesling, Semillon, Fiano, Sauvignon Blanc

Check out that Grenache bunch!



(that, of course, is a technical term)

The next step is to press the grapes to release the juice.

And there is no fancy machine specially designed for this job (well, there probably is, but I don’t have one in my kitchen). Just give them a good old fashioned squeeze with your hands (in a plastic bag to capture the juice). Then pour the juice into a container through a sieve.

The one key thing to remember here is to make sure all of the berries have been squished. Even the smaller harder ones. Actually… especially the smaller harder ones. 

Remember, you want a representative sample of juice. You want your sample to be as close to what it would be if all the grapes were picked and crushed. Extracting the juice from just the big ripe berries will inflate your results.



Maturity analysis

That IS the technical term. It just means “measure the amount of sugar in the grapes”. 

WQe haven’t spoken abuot it much this vintage, but if you have been following along with past posts like this one, then you know all about “degrees Baumé (Bé°)” and how 1 Bé° roughly results in 1% alcohol once the grapes are fermented.

So, this measurement is a pretty good guide for a winemaker. It tells him/her pretty much exactly when the grapes are ready to pick (depending on what style they have in mind). This test gets done a lot during the pointy end of the growing season. From once weekly as the grapes start to ripen to up to every couple of days as they get closer and closer to the optimal sugar levels.

There are a couple of ways to test the grape juice once it is pressed.

The quickest and simplest way is to use a refractometer. They are sometimes used in the lab (although there are more accurate ways of doing it there), but it is super handy for use in the field. You can basically do it in the vineyard and get a result immediately.





Here are a couple of photos from my kitchen laboratory…


You just pop a couple of drops of juice on that blue bit there, close the cover and then look through the eyepiece for the reading. It looks a bit like this…

Ignore for the moment that the scale is labelled Brix %… this is just another scale for the same thing. A very quick conversion turns it into Bé°

So, that’s it! There will be A LOT of this going on in vineyards all across the region right about now. 

And another thing that is happening right now? Our 2023 Fumé Blanc and 2023 Chardonnay are heading down the bottling line. Today, in fact! Don’t forget to let me know if you need to me to put a stash away for you. And keep an eye out for a little aesthetic change with the Fumé. We hope you’ll like it!

One Reply to “All grown up…”

  1. Some editions back, Rob put values on some older wines, to my delight as I had several of them.
    Could I get a quick valuation on 2016 Shiraz?

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