What is a Harvest like?

Well, you basically pile a bunch of miscellaneous travellers together (mixed with some locals) who all have a passion for wine in some form whether it be making, learning or consuming it and give them about 8-12 weeks to turn grapes into a fermented adult juice. It’s an organized, chaotic experience.

Racking in the pouring rain

You laugh, you cry, you get angry and frustrated. You push yourself to the limits as you have cleaned out your 11th press load for the night, for the 10th day in a row. You get a little crazy around 3 am after the 3rd week. You dance, you learn, you drink a lot of coffee and hope you brought enough food. On the night shift, you live for the sunlight. On day shift, you live for shade.

Dancing at midnight

Machines break, forklifts run out of propane mid-turn, juice trays overflow and you can’t remember if you put your additions in or not. The de-stemmer has clogged, your shovel handle just broke (much like your will to live) and you’ve just been sprayed in the face with a hose. You are unbelievably sticky, your hands are a purple-black. You have been hauling the same 3-inch hose across the winery countless times. O rings don’t actually exist during harvest, they are incredibly hard to find and will break friendships. You’ve lost your spanner (wrench), you have been wearing the same clothes all week, have a rubber boot wax about mid-calf and you genuinely have no idea what day it is.

 

Organized chaos.

Completely addicting? Yes. One of the best experiences? Yes. Do you drink a lot of beer? Yes.

Besides all of this, harvest can generally get broken into these categories:

 

  • Press team: People responsible for fruit receival, pressing and filling tanks with the grapes or juice along with some pre-fermentation additions.
  • Cellar team: People responsible for taking the juice and turning it into wine.
  • RDV
  • Lab: People responsible for letting the above teams know what they are doing and when.
  • Winemaker(s): People responsible for all of the above.

This can get further broken down into teams such as:

  • Whites
  • Reds
  • Rackings, transfers
  • Pump-overs/punch downs
  • Additions
  • Samples

Sunrises make it worth it

Every winery will operate slightly differently, sometimes you have a harvest crew of 5 – 7 or a harvest crew of 27 – 30. Sometimes you work 8 – 10 hours or 12-hours. Days, nights, days off or sometimes never. If you luck out, you will get your hands on a little bit of everything. I find this varies depending on the size of the winery. However, there is a few who will get stuck cleaning for the entirety of their harvest life and I want you to know, that without those chosen few, the wine production could not go on. Winemaking honestly is 70% cleaning and sanitization. The rest is the fun stuff you get to do in between the cycles of tank cleaning. 

Overall, a harvest is one of the most fun experiences you can have. It’s the end of the grape season! If you have ever slaved away in a vineyard for a year than harvest is your celebration. It’s the end of the grape year and you’ve survived! You meet great people, you party a lot and you get to do something pretty cool.

Make wine.

 

Night Shift!

 

 

Grocery Stores and Trundlers

You are probably wondering what a trundler is? It is the Kiwi term for a shopping cart, trolley or handcart depending on where you come from in the world. Although there are many funny words to hear while in New Zealand, I thought I would make a little hack guide for shopping here. It is very expensive, good cheese is hard to find and lamb is available in every way imaginable.

So you have your 3 main grocery stores – Pak n Save, Countdown and New World.

Pak n Save is your cheapest, think of it as your No Frills of New Zealand if you come from Canada. Similar to Wal Mart or Superstore, however purely grocery and alcohol beer and wine) based. By far the best beer selection I have seen for a grocery store out here. It regularly is the best deal at the regular price, not the sale price. They carry lots of brands from your cheap no name to your more well-known Kellogs and alike. So you can always find a cheaper alternative to your habitual selection.

Countdown would be the next cheapest. While overall, Pak n Save is cheap, Countdown does get some wicked deals in. Lots of $1 deals. Larger wine selection in my opinion. My go – to all harvest season was the Yalumba Dry Rose 2L, regular $20, On sale for $18.99. Straight out of the bargain bin can’t go wrong. Think of it as your Save on Foods (another Canadian reference) as there is a lot of local items and very good produce. I really enjoy the steaks from here even if Pak n Save has a larger selection of meats. And cheese. This is where #teamcheese is most satisfied. If you get a Countdown card you can also get points that equal to gas and food discounts.

New World is somewhat equal to Countdown. A little higher end, a little more expensive. Once again, they do get some good deals as well. You will also see a good wine selection as well. It is considered a more “elite” grocery store I have been told by some locals. Rumour has it, this is where you will find the best meat. You can also sign up for a store card here and get the best deals. This is also an Airpoints friendly location which is a huge bonus if you fly Air New Zealand a lot.

Of course, all depends on the store location and size. I love the Countdown in the heart of downtown Blenheim, I loathe the Countdown in Springlands.

Next, you have The Warehouse. This is a place good for random, miscellaneous dry goods at a very affordable price. Home of the $1 deals. Plus, anything else you could ever want you can also find there. The Wal Mart before refrigeration. Seriously though, you can get any kind of snack food and also any kind of garden supplies you could possibly need. Clothes, camping gear, kitchenware, hardware etc. If in doubt, go to Warehouse.

Some other key points of interest to buy goods at are the following:

Couplands Bakeries – You can find every single kind of cookie here, small and large pies and an amazing array of bread. They also have sandwiches, albeit slightly fresher than your gas station choices. They also have loaves of bread for $1. This is a true bargain. There is a good”homemade frozen take home” section and a hot food section as well. Worth the stop, especially if you have a sweet tooth.

The Burleigh – The BEST pies in all of Blenheim. Most likely the surrounding area. In case you didn’t know, when one refers to pies in NZ it means meat pies. Not sweet pies.  They also offer an array of baked goods, sausage rolls and sandwiches. I have heard really good coffee as well. Their Facebook profile photo is literally “Pies for the People” how could you not trust them?

Some things never get cheaper, no matter where you go, like butter. I don’t know why it is so expensive here. We are talking around $5-$6. Milk is also around $4-$5 depending on a 1L. Chocolate Milk is expensive but an absolute must. This is some of the best, creamiest chocolate milk I have ever had in my entire life.