Viticulture Week 4 – A messy business!

In Course notes by Classtoglass

Like every week so far, Viticulture week 4 has been an exponentially large learning curve. From skills to trouble shooting, I have been right in the thick of it. It is a messy business!

Top three favourite things I have learnt this week:

1. Always take a change of clothes to the winery

Measuring pH

For the first time in too long, this week I donned a white coat and did some actual science in a lab. Chemistry is a big deal in winemaking. Even home brews require a fundamental knowledge of that most maligned subject. Following the changes in pH, sugar concentration and sulphur dioxide levels are vital in ensuring the successful fermentation and stability of your tipple.

Measuring sulphur dioxide

The morning of this session, I was fretting about our very own home brew and I was armed with a sample of our juice to analyse. By the end of the session involving adding different levels of acid, I was confident I knew what to do next at home. I had the privilege of testing some real wine too. Then reporting my findings back to the Executive winemaker.

Winemakers are amazing. They have so many tricks up their sleeve to rescue, adjust and highlight specific aspects of a wine. There is so much to learn including the required instincts and a little magic.

Before all of this fun though, they had me busting my humps in the winery. I’m gonna need to work out – barrels are heavy!

Strong look!

Acid trial on own juice

I learnt how to wash barrels for storage and pump over a ferment. (Spray juice over the top of the floating skins to keep them in contact with the juice and safe from microbes.) The enormous hose pumps the juice from the bottom of the fermenter and it was my job to direct it over the skins.


That was until the end of the hose fell off, spraying me with about 15L of Shiraz. I looked like a murder victim and it was only 11am… when I left at 4pm to catch the train home I was fermenting quite nicely myself!

2. Reversing a tractor with a trailer is hard

Tractor in ‘the shed’

Part 2 of tractor 101 with Steve this week involved hooking up, driving with, using and reversing trailers. I was delighted that I hadn’t forgotten everything from last week, but I must admit that reversing is not my forte in any vehicle.

Chances of a catastrophic disaster it seems are multiplied when you have a trailer. Despite being enormous and imposing things, they are surprisingly easy to break.

Remaining incredibly slow was my tactic and I cracked it in the end! One tractor and trailer in ‘the shed’ it was time to mow the paddock with a slasher on the back of another one. How anyone manages to do this alone though, I have no idea?

3. Yeast are amazing!

Massive ferment in session

Our winemaking lecture this week was about yeast and how to make white wine. Such amazing little cells, yeast. They are everywhere. In wineries and vineyards they soon populate their surrounding world and each establishment has their own particular flora.

Yeast have been used to ferment grapes to produce wine for thousands of years. They do it by feeding on the sugars (in the absence of oxygen) and turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Most grapes have a population of wild yeast on their skins that will do this job. However, winemakers usually opt to add their own, as often native yeast will die at low levels of alcohol before fermenting all of the sugars to ‘dryness.’

Cultured yeast, on the other hand, are often selected for their ability to survive in high concentrations of alcohol and in other extremes. They can be relied upon to turn all of the sugar to booze.

What else?

So much else! Our home brew started wild fermenting vigorously as a result of Wednesday’s experimentation. We pressed our ferment from the skins at Noisy Ritual and the first ideas about how I would tackle the challenge of making a Shiraz rose for a uni assignment were formed. Details to follow.


Stay posted…

Thank you for reading