By: Nicole Campbell
Ah week 3 of wine harvest. How young and naïve I was back then. This is lovely, I thought. Hard work, but boy oh boy am I learning lots! And I was; Mitchell Winery in Clare Valley was small enough to let me try everything, but big enough to fix my mistakes when I accidentally left the sulphur running or forgot to tighten a hose or almost fell off a tank.
Then came week 4. With red and white wine grapes arriving with incredible haste, days were a hectic mash of cleaning, pressing, cleaning, pressing, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, drinking, cleaning, dreaming about cleaning.
I thought it was busy. I called home and spoke of never ending Shiraz and blisters acquired punching down and shoveling out grape skins.
Then came week 5.
That Saturday, as I forklifted and cleaned 66 grape bins, I developed a small eye twitch. I believe it was the following Sunday at 7 am- as I prepared for another day of work- that I acquired my first gray hair, and what’s more, I kinda wanted a beer.
Over the coming days I learned a valuable lesson: despising a fruit really is possible.
Truck load after truck load of full bins, empty bins, and carefully measured sulphur packets traversed our country road. The picking board (of terror) stared at me as I tested pHs, temperatures and sugar readings. It has just begun, my precious, it taunted, throwing back its mean board head. And you just spilled red wine on the counter. AGAIN. The following sample was tainted by a single, salty tear.
I began to feel euphoria as grapes were crushed. They had it coming! Serves you right, grape! I had entered the inner ring of Dante’s Seventh Circle of Hell, my violence against the (wine) gods escalating to concerning plateaus.
My life was so engrossed with wine that even haircuts were slotted between presses.
And then it was over. As quickly as the grapes had arrived, they disappeared. I entered a depressed haze. I sulked around the winery, looking for things to DO, emergencies to FIX, why was there so much STANDING AROUND. The excitement and pressure of vintage over, a palpable malaise hung around the place. And by the place I mean me. It seemed that I kinda, sorta loved the pressure, hours and pace that vintage violently shoved upon me. It seemed that I missed it, terribly.
Sooooo anyone need a cellar hand this September?
Nicole Campbell is a wine blogger and all around worker bee for Lifford Wine Agency, Ontario’s largest supplier of wine to the hospitality industry and VINTAGES. Sadly no longer living in Clare Valley, South Australia nor working her first harvest at Mitchell Wines. Follow her on twitter @liffordnicole.