To the cellar, everything, and as quickly as possible. This year harvest was a little different than the previous ones. This time something unexpected happened, something a little special. What? I'll tell you about it now. And it's not a corona virus.
Spring, summer, autumn, winter. Yes, these are the seasons, but what about them? Each has a slightly different meaning for the wine world. While winemakers rest in the winter, they sometimes go to the vineyard to cut a little or build a snowman. A few months earlier, they played Russian roulette with the weather, and some do business with the devil. Harvest. Enchanted word. The peak of the wine year. Beautiful and in fact physically demanding work from dusk to dawn. But the joy of the result? Priceless.
This title could be used for everything. However, this applies to wine specially. Harvest is the result of year-round work, magic in the vineyard, hygiene in the cellar and the patience of all involved. These are mainly two things that make up a good product. Wine not excluded. It's philosophy and weather. If we take care of the vineyard with love and conviction, as well as our children, we have half the work done. And when we put vineyards, we pump herbicides, so… So it will come back to us with all that shits. This year was a little different. At first it looked like a fairy tale. It rained, yet it was relatively warm. Then came something that no one expected. Coronavirus? Paradoxically, life in the vineyard did not stop. The solitary life of the winegrowers could continue and the Sisifian work of the merchants continued to suffer.
Current year was difficult for winemakers because of the rain. Until the end of August, it looked great. Ideal conditions. And then it started. Never ending rain. Can it be harvested in the rain at all? Some say yes, others say no. Some claim that the rain gets into the grapes, which then swell and burst. Others claim that rain dilutes the juice during processing. There are also voices that the rain does not affect the harvest at all. So where is the truth? The only certainty is that no one wants to harvest in the rain. Anyway, would you drive your grandmother out to the field when the weather was under the dog? I do not either. But the grapes ripen even in the rain. And if you wait too long, it's too late. You have so much sugar in the grapes that you can sell the rest of your sugar to a neighbor. So this year was about strategy, wit and a little bit of luck. Tested the strong will and ingenuity of all winemakers. What will the year actually be like? Great or bad, and how about special? It will be mainly different. And we enjoy it the most, don't we?
And who actually collects the wine? This year, almost everyone. Thanks to such variable conditions both in the weather and in foreign policy, so many grandmothers and grandfathers from abroad could not join this year, who have been helping Moravian winemakers collect for years, because… while someone drives Pálava from Hungary, we drive Slovakia to Pálava. This year, friends, siblings helped, and if dogs could, they would help too. Who wouldn't trade office work and cold cubicles for beautiful moments with loved ones, even in the wet, but with a grandmother's bun and scissors in hand? I guess no one.
The order is clear. We cut bunches of grapes at the stalk. We put that in buckets. A strong individual dumps buckets into large, mostly plastic boxes on a tractor. We move and weigh the boxes with a "lizard". With the help of the winemaker's trident, we pour the grapes on a line that leads to a magical device that separates the grapes from the bunches. We will grind the grapes further. And here our paths diverge. We either send the grapes to a press, which squeezes the ground grapes and get the juice, or we send it to the vats, where I continue to ripen on the skins. We can leave them in there, for months. But that's probably enough for the theory so far. Let's go back to the vineyard.
Anyway, do you want to see how they do it in the Gurdau winery? Between the hills, above the Gothic church, there is a slope from which you can see all the way to the Pálava Hills. There is no need to describe their golden gold Riesling from Stará Hora. You better taste it. Complex, quiet white wine with respect for nature and history. We documented the harvest of Veltlín. Unlike Riesling, it has larger grapes and is better harvested. How is the journey of grapes from the bush to the barrel in Kurdějov? The winegrower Marek Sedláček told me about it.
"Winter was the standard for the last three years, so it looked like it would be a dry year again. In the spring, however, more precipitation began. Summer is again standard what we experienced five years ago and despite of that we had to treat the vines more. There were more fungi, more fungal diseases. But it was the standard year we've been experiencing before the drought of the last few years.
During the year, we reduced the grapes directly on the bush. And at the beginning of the harvest, when there was not so much rain, we were doing ok. Malts were also beautiful. But then came the week of rains, when it rained some 130 mm in five days. And then it was quite a mess. Varieties sensitive to botritis and rot caught the most. All we had left was Riesling in the vineyard, so we had to harvest every day, like it or not. But we had no problem with sugars or ripening. Thanks to the reduction and thanks to the location we have.
I think it will be a good year. There was a lot of water over the summer and whoever managed to catch diseases and fungi won. The ripeness of the grapes was and I think it will be a better year than the previous one. Even in quantity. Even though we reduced, we had a third more than last year. So far, it looks like a good year.” Do you have a video? And can I see it?
How do the collection processes in different wineries differ? We are in South Moravia, the whole thing is very similar. At the same time, but another village... Harvest often differs in technique and philosophy. The enthusiasm for a great result is the same. While on Krásná Hora the grapes lie in vats waiting for pigeage, read mixing with skins, for example on Sonberk they collect Pálava, which is then folded into grates to dry out during the winter and thus create a unique straw wine.
"The current year is actually over and it was the year it used to be. It was such a standard year as it was before 2010, because it was completely normal that it rained halfway through the season and that we harvested it in gloves and hats at the end and drank hot drinks and we didn't even dream of any T-shirts and shorts. It was completely normal for us. It was also normal that we were actually chasing the diseases to keep them in some reasonable regime, simply because it was damp. It was also cold, so the classic, such typical fruitiness, the northern, or the northernmost part of the wine world is also a very typical thing. So it didn't surprise me at all. I felt like I remembered at the beginning. On the contrary, all those years before were non-standard for us.
What we have been doing for a long time has paid off greatly this year and that is that we have complete landscaping in the vineyards. And so even though there was so much water and thanks to the fact that we have been greened for a long time, it ranks among different crops and even the green manure. So, first of all, it didn't bother us with erosion, it didn't bother us that we couldn't go in there. Of course, the maintenance of the straight belt, which means hoeing under the heads, of course could not be maintained, but given how much it rained, it did not matter. There it is mainly related to drought.
Harvest as such, that was again the thing we were used to. I remember this from 2008, 2009, when we had to break the vintage because it was raining and because it's nothing pleasant. And now, of course, after the ten days of raining, we expected it to start to rot, but it was so cold that it didn't actually start and that it lost its sugar content, but we didn't mind. At the same time, however, the strong acids dropped. Which was great, because we could finally collect everything at once. So in reality, the pause wasn't entirely wrong.
The wine will also look like when we go back to the "cool climate style". The wines will be fruity, they will have a reasonable amount of alcohol. It will not be 14 or 15 percent. And they may not be full stars in terms of potential, but again, I think that if someone did well, we expected a wine of a century. Like the real year of the century and not the one announced here every two years, but we'll see. Whether it was the 2019 or it was the 2020. I'm definitely satisfied, but even though at the beginning our ass was a little clenched over the acids, they are all as they should be in wine. It will definitely not be any boring dull wines without expression and it will be more to drink and it will be more comfortable and it will not be tight.” This is how Marek Vybíral from Krásná Hora sees it. I saw it this way.
There is only one place in South Moravia with the best view of the Pálava Hills. Sonberk Winery. Someone uses machines for harvesting, specifically a combine harvester that shakes with bushes and the berries fall off. It will harvest you a hectare per hour. Elsewhere, they prefer manual labor. Sometimes it is necessary to harvest with love, choose what goes into the wine and what does not. That's what they chose at Sonberk. And harvesting 45 hectares of vineyards is not just that. And the result, it speaks for itself. What leads to it? That's what Roman Slouk will tell us.
"This year has shown us that the year is long and that many types of weather can change during this time. So this year it was first dry, then very wet. The vineyards have given us a lot to do this year. We did a lot of work late. Somehow we have to catch up with nature. In the end, the end of when we were not in the vineyard for a week, because it rained almost 100 mm, made a complete devastation of our harvest, our work. That year, because you remember the last thing the most, I didn't like it at all.
Until the week of rain, the harvest was standard, relaxed, it was a pleasure to watch the grapes look like, taste and we had all malts over 20 here at Sonberk, there was no problem, so it was a joy. And after that week, it was rather pathetic. And in fact, it affected the late varieties the most. In our case, Riesling, and the harvest was no longer so cheerful and overall, and maybe the atmosphere in the sociaty, it was not much.
So what comes of it? This will definitely result in a wine that will be typical for 2020, and whether I will be like that or different, I dare not say. So there were probably not as many of those warm days as we were used to last years, and probably the wine will also be so disparate, a bit sharper, but it will simply be the year 2020. "
This year was a test. Test for all winemakers and their families. But it is not for nothing that it is called "pain and gain". We mortals now have no choice but to wait and look forward to what comes out of the cellars.
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© 2021 Marek Dvorak / Photography