Processing Syrah

Queen’s Birthday Weekend in New Zealand – the first weekend in June – means we have a public holiday on the Monday, and this year it was the coldest weekend I can remember in many a long year. We woke up on Sunday to snow on the hills:processing syrah 005

We’d made the decision to press the Syrah on the Saturday. Ben, Colin’s youngest son, came over from Wellington on the train for the day, it being his birthday. First we pumped 1000 litres of free-flow Syrah into ‘Annabel’, the stainless steel tank. Then I changed into shorts and an old hoodie, with only a baker-boy hat for warmth, and climbed into the 2000 litre tank and shovelled the fruit into buckets for Colin to haul up and out and tip into the white 550 litre tank, on to the trailer. A messy business:processing syrah 001







processing syrah 002The fruit filled one 550 litre tank, and about a quarter of a second. This was taken next door to Te Hera Vineyard, the winery of our neighbour John Douglas, and pressed in his red wine press. It’s a slow process.


processing syrah 003John’s on the left, with Ben centre and Colin on the right, slightly out of focus but it was a freezing cold day and we weren’t standing still for long.

The Syrah berries were interesting. Unlike Pinot Noir, they stubbornly hold their shape as long as they can, even in the press, and burst through those wooden slats you can see, even exploding up to the ceiling of John’s winery, dripping down over his hair and back. We had quite a fun time over there. But it’s great seeing the cassis-coloured juice pour out from the fruit – we pressed another 500 litres out of the fruit before we stopped when the tannins started to taste too bitter.processing syrah 004

This took the whole day – 8am to 5.30pm with no stops for lunch or cuppas. Hard work but very satisfying, and boy do you appreciate that glass of wine at the end of the day, and the long hot bath. The other two very happy customers were the pigs, who are still gorging themselves on the pressed grapes taken out of the wine press. I fully expected to go down on Sunday morning and find them moaning about having hangovers, but no. They have red snouts, and they’ve made a good job of levelling the pile of fruit, but they are really enjoying their diet of sweet Syrah.

For now the pressed juice is settling. Tomorrow we’ll pump it all back together into the 2000 litre tank, then this weekend it will go into barrels.


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