Nikki at RedHeads – last day

Last day – a busy one … what did I expect!

My last day helping Dan at RedHeads : (

I could tell as soon as I arrived, Dan had big plans for the day. He was buzzing around already. Nice to meet his Dad, Ralph, popped up from Riverina, Dan’s home. Ralph is a winemaker too. See if you can spot him in the picture down the page.

Ebb and flow, pattern and rhythm
I’ve come to understand a few things over the last two weeks. There’s a certain pattern and rhythm and logic to everything that goes on in the winery at vintage. Receive (or fetch) the grapes, destem them and get them into vat, plunge and let them ferment in their own good time. Drain the juice, press the rest, get all the batch of wine into tank. Then, for the majority, pump it into barrel. This is, of course, simplified and takes some weeks.

pressing bucket

Short on pump capacity, Dan said we’d need to collect the wine from the basket press in a bucket and carry it to tank – call these wines handcrafted? You bet!

If you’re not careful, you get a blockage … not enough tanks, need quickly to get onto cleaning the barrels and filling them, to clear some tank space, so you can drain and press.

mark clean barrels2

We were very pleased to have extra hands for cleaning the barrels and filling them – Mark Hoddy from Bordeaux’s Le Chai

Well, today we did it all! Plunging, it’s as normal as breathing and coffee in the morning. Clear the cake from the press. Clean some barrels and fill them, six in total today. Two new, as well – a French and an American – to hold the gorgeous Dogs of the Barossa Shiraz. Powerful stuff. As you fill the new barrels, they do give off an awesome toasty, vanilla and oak aroma.

dan, dad, fill barrels

You have to watch the level of the wine rising very carefully as you fill the barrel … here, it’s Dan busy at the task, and can you spot Dan’s dad behind him?

And I thought, just before I left, I’d empty out another large coffin container. Well, it was my favourite-smelling fermentation vat – the chunky Durif, black-as-your-hat, smelt very dark, chocolaty and spicy. They couldn’t keep me out!

durif container

Looks small, I can assure you it wasn’t. There’s a certain satisfaction in getting it done. 90 minutes roundabout, not bad! Smelt great

I popped out to the Elderton winery (top wine is the world-famous Command) straight after, luckily looking in a mirror first as my face was smeared with wine splashes – a bit of a sight. And no, I didn’t bother taking a picture of that!

Hey Dan. It’s been a really great two weeks. Thanks for putting up with me. Hope I was more help than hindrance and that the rest of the vintage goes really well. I look forward to tasting the finished wines.

And also that you get a day off soon!

About Laithwaites Wine

Laithwaite's began in 1969, when Tony Laithwaite took a job washing bottles in Bordeaux... and fell in love with real wine and the people who make it. When he borrowed a van to share these delicious wines with friends and neighbours at home, things went so well that boutique wineries were soon queuing to take part. Today we're the UK's No.1 home-delivery wine merchant, with over 1,500 wines to choose from... including red, white and rosé, plus Champagne and sparkling, beer and cider.