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Day 5 of Clare Valley Vintage: Down to business

Published:  23 July, 2008

G'day Folks. If like me you've been guilty in the past of being swept away by the glamour of the wine industry - then you needed to be part of my team today.

I've been very fortunate in my career to have travelled the world in celebration of wonderful things vinous but take my word for it - there's a whole lot of hard work behind the scenes... and there ain't nothing romantic about it.

Today was in fact a celebration of all of the great people that make up this wonderful industry and help bring a vintage together. It's the hand pickers, the bucket boys, tractor drivers and cellar rats that all help take grape to glass and on a day like today I really want to sing their praises. Actually what I really want to do is buy them all a drink.

With a hot day of 38 degrees forecast, we started picking at first light just to escape the heat and of course ensure that our precious 10 tonnes of Riesling would be well looked after.

It's no wonder that anyone who starts work on a Monday before dawn wants to shoot the whole day down, but there's something about wine that brings out the best in people and so our gang were in great spirits all day despite the heat.

Now unless you've experienced the feeling of being up to your eyeballs in grapes, covered in dust and sticky grape juice, listening to rural South Australia's version of an hour with Richard and Judy and having enough time to reassess your life direction, you just don't understand how much that means. That - my friends - is truly a trophy winning performance because that takes some stamina.

We finally finished at around 9pm tonight with a couple of Riesling tanks showing wonderful natural acidity of 8.1g/L and sugar levels of around 12 Be'. Great stuff.

After picking and cleaning and cleaning and picking and guess what - yep more cleaning - finally when you can sit back and see what you have achieved it really is very rewarding. That's the difference between good wine and GREAT wine. Anyone can make wine. God knows I did growing up (from old fruit school bag horrors) but great wine comes from attention to detail and not cutting corners.

It's about the finesse and tweaking that makes improvements, but that needs to happen at every step of the process. When you have a great team you are one step closer to making great wine.

We have a very busy week planned after some warm ripening conditions over the weekend and both Shiraz and Riesling with beautifully balanced acid chemistry will be harvested this week.

Knowing that it is only just the start of vintage makes it even more exciting about the potential for the future. There is camaraderie in work of this nature that is very special. When it comes to choosing who you want along side of you in the trenches, it's not the glamour puss .. it's those that go the extra mile, that don't shy from responsibility and most importantly if it came down to it - would even give away beer o'clock.

I was asked today if I was at least having fun yet are you kidding? Bet you wanna trade places!!!!

Kerri Thompson is winemaker/director of KT & The Falcon