April 5th and we have harvested the older block of 114, 115 and 777 Pinot Noir clones from Foggy Hill at 5 tonnes/hectare as expected but exactly one month later than last year. Foggy Hill has had more than 200mm’s of rain on it since January 1st, 100mm’s more than last year. From October to the end of March Foggy Hill only received 1000°C days of heat above 10°C which is marginal for ripeness and in German wine region ranges.
The fruit is not perfect but we are strenuously sorting the few bunches that the pickers haven’t identified with light brown apple moth damage and subsequent Botrytis infection and the green second crop as the buckets are slowly tipped into the picking bins. It looked good as it was consigned to the winery last night, a little plumper of berry girth and paler than normal with higher acid and lower sugar, I imagine much as the fruit of Burgundy or the Sonoma Coast of California looks in a cooler year and as I know the fruit of Oregon looked in 2010.
Back to Foggy Hill this morning to finish the 777 and 115 clones in Block 2 planted in 2006, that’s if we have a picking crew. It’s a challenge to persuade the pickers, usually first generation immigrants to Australia from Cambodia, Iraq or elsewhere, to travel in their time worn cars down to Foggy Hill which is isolated on the Fleurieu Peninsula at about 40 minutes south of McLaren Vale. It’s especially hard this year as all of the winemakers in the Adelaide Hills and surrounding regions are selectively hand harvesting around the Botrytis rot this year whereas normally they would be employing the convenience and economy of machine harvesters. Tells a story about the value of hand harvesting and also about the mobility of labour to the place of highest return for least inconvenience. We match the financial inducements of our bigger neighbours but we also offer our pickers the aesthetic reward of working in a hillside garden with panoramic views of the rolling green pastures of the Fleurieu Peninsula dotted with white, slow grazing lambs in perfect cool air, clear sun shine autumn weather. I wonder whether it will make the difference between having a picking crew and not this morning?