The days of rest are over. For the past two nights our sleep has been interrupted at 3am by the frost machines down the valley. Ours aren’t turned on yet, so we’ve been spared – for a few days at least – the unnerving experience of trying to sleep while a jumbo jet is taxi-ing for hours up and down the vine rows. For that is what these machines sound like. They sit high above the vines like big windmills, and when the temperature drops below a certain level they automatically begin their whirring – diesel driven – and while the blades are whirring around, the actual head pivots to blast moving air all throughout the vines, so the frost doesn’t settle.
This means bud burst is upon us – either now, if you’re like Larrikins over the road at Escarpment who has Chardonnay – or in the next week if you’re growing Pinot Noir. And so begins the nervousness of farming grapes. Will the frost destroy bud burst? Get safely through that and you’re into a spray programme which has to be timed exactly right. Then the agonising over the actual crop, leaf plucking, and so on until vintage when every day is exciting.
So out will go the frost pots, too, in the next few days. Little diesel burners at the ends of the rows, which we must jump out of bed in the middle of the night to set alight, if there’s a frost warning. And all the politicians have to worry about is an election! Too easy.
While it’s great to know that summer’s on its way – definitely the last three days have been unbelievably hot – it’s also signals the hard work is again upon us, there’ll be no holidays for a while, and the guessing game begins for the 2009 vintage.