harvesting in vineyard

Vintage is approaching: prepare your winery to avoid shortfall

All year long, grape growers, winemakers and viticulturists work towards vintage, when the grapes are ripe and ready to be harvested. This makes vintage an exceptionally busy and often nerve-wracking time of year, and one that requires long days, intense labour and your best workers on the job.

The Australian vintage can begin as early as January in some states and typically continues on through until April. However, given that climate can be unpredictable, it always pays to be prepared so you can make the most of the vintage. You need to have your equipment ready and serviced, your winery in working order, and ensure that you are fully staffed with enough cellar hands to handle the increase in workload.  

Here are just a few important points to consider so you can take advantage of the 2020 vintage and minimise stress during this busy time of year.

Check and prepare equipment

Given that vintage only occurs once a year, many wineries experience machinery failure due to it being left in storage for months and therefore not being routinely used. This lack of use can be wearing on equipment and could lead to unseen damage that can strike mid-harvest.

To avoid this, it pays to check over all of your equipment in the month prior to harvest and get it up and running before the first grapes arrive. Give it a good physical cleaning and sanitation regime, during which you can check it over to ensure all parts are in good working order and are free of rust and damage.

Onboard additional staff

Perhaps one of the most crucial ways to prepare your winery for vintage is by onboarding new staff to make sure that you have enough employees to handle the additional workload. After all, you could have a potentially excellent vintage, but if you don’t have enough staff to support the harvest activity, you’ll be unlikely to reap the full rewards.

Take stock of your workforce. Do you have enough workers to facilitate a successful vintage? Do you need to account for those who are away on holiday? Furthermore, it is a good idea to onboard new staff at least a month leading up to vintage, so they have time to be properly trained and have a sound understanding of your winery’s systems and processes.

Ensure safety of staff

The safety of grape-pickers and cellar hands is paramount during a winery’s peak season, as you need to have a healthy and happy workforce ready to put in the hard work.

As picking can occur early in the morning or else in the evenings, visibility can be a concern. Removing summer grass from the mid-rows helps to clear out any snakes that might be lurking unseen, while smoothing out the vineyard areas helps to remove as many potential hazards as possible for feet and vehicle tyres. Posts and wires should also be thoroughly checked and any breakages fixed.

Take stock of supplies

There are numerous chemicals and supplies used in the winery all year round, but some of them are particularly important around harvest. Some of these may include citric acid, cleaning compounds, malic acid or pectic enzyme.

And for those wineries with laboratories onsite, make sure that they are properly stocked with equipment, glassware, and chemicals to perform routine tests. This could mean stocking up on hydrometers, pipettes, glassware, pH probes, and all of the associated chemicals that you will need during harvest season. This way, everything is ready to go when you need it.

As specialist recruiters in the wine industry, CozWine understands the importance of the vintage period for grape growers and winemakers. We can help you source and onboard workers to ensure your winery is fully staffed for the busy period. If you’re in need of staff, contact us today and speak with one of our experienced consultants.