McLaren Vale has built a solid reputation for Shiraz thanks to its terroir as well as attention being paid to the grape picking process.
Within the industry, the secret to picking often revolves around hand picking vs machine harvesting of grapes because both methods can impact the final results differently.
From our perspective as a single vineyard in McLaren Vale, here’s how this question has changed our harvesting approach at Braydun Hill wines.
Hand picking in the heat
When we began in 2001, we were of the old fashioned school that believed the only way to pick grapes was to hand pick them.
But it soon became obvious that picking grapes on hot summer days in South Australia is not only hard on the workers, it is hard on the fruit itself.
It did not take long for us to realise the risk to our fruit, having it sit in pickers’ baskets, then in the metal bins on our tractor, until finally reaching the safe harbour of the crushing machine.
Machine harvesting under the stars
When we made the decision to move away from hand picking, we were quite struck by the stark contrast between the two methods, primarily because machine harvesting can be carried out safely in the cool of the night.
I can’t help but think the wonderful calmness and stillness just before dawn as the machines finish for the night. imparts itself into the grapes and therefore the wine.
We’ve been very happy with our move to machine harvesting and, as vignerons, it is satisfying to see our grapes harvested quickly and then whisked away in prime condition to be crushed.
In a future article, we will follow the winemaking process to the crushing plant.