Harvest season is here, and for vintners, that means long days at the winery turning fruit into something special. It’s that once-in-a-year stretch that brings joy, headaches, sore backs, stained hands, and, ultimately, another vintage of wine.
Because it’s a marathon of sorts, winemakers depend on all kinds of things to see harvest through. Some don the same lucky shirt they’ve worn since they got into the trade while others rely on a great playlist or their favorite form of caffeine. As you might imagine, high-energy foods and comfortable clothing are typically in the mix. When you work 30-plus days straight, often well into the wee hours, you need multiple pick-me-ups.
As the wine world hauls in vintage 2022 (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), we asked a handful of winemakers all over the globe a pressing question: What’s the one thing you can’t live without during harvest?
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“Easy. Burritos. Harvest and burritos go together like, well, harvest and burritos! With early picks, it is especially glorious that our local burrito shop here in Walla Walla opens at 7 a.m. This means the glory of burritos can be had early, whether it is a breakfast burrito for breakfast or a carnitas burrito at the end of a night pick for dinner.” —Brooke Delmas, director of winegrowing, Delmas Wines, Walla Walla, Wash.
“During harvest, there’s absolutely one thing I cannot live without. It’s what my wife Sara affectionately (I think) calls my ‘oompa loompa suit.’ This smashing ensemble consists of an old orange hoodie worn under my brown, chest-high waders. Since we’re a micro-boutique operation, I shovel and bucket must from inside the fermenter directly into the press wearing this incredibly stylish outfit. I also wear it for all the cleaning we do. There’s a lot of hot water being sprayed, but the majority of me stays dry in this utilitarian fashion statement. I avoid the green curly hair and I don’t sing songs that teach morality lessons, but otherwise, I can’t argue the resemblance.” —Dave Specter, winemaker, Bells Up Winery, Willamette Valley, Ore.
“Coffee. Usually, I’m quite particular about my coffee but during harvest, I’m willing to make an exception. It’s a time of year that features long days, and often long nights, combined with the pressure of a year’s worth of work coming to fruition (literally!) in just a few weeks. So as long as the coffee has caffeine, it’ll give me all the comfort, energy, and decision-making juice I need to help ensure the fruit is carefully delivered to the winery in great condition, ready to be made into the sustainably crafted wines we’re famous for.” —David Babich, CEO, Babich Wines, New Zealand
“Well, great music, for one, keeps the teams motivated during the 24/7 operations. I’ve always said one needs to judge a winemaker’s skills by their coffee making. If the coffee is good, then you know the wine is also good. Coffee is a great ‘pick-me-up,’ and we have a classic Cimbali espresso machine. Very important. Finally, during the day, we treat our interns to a classic South African dish to warm their hearts and bodies. Bobotie and Boerewors comes to mind, which is like a South African shepherd’s pie — curried ground lamb, beef, and vegetables topped with a savory egg custard.” —Pieter Ferreira, winemaker and COO, Graham Beck, South Africa
“Most of the year, I like to listen to podcasts during my daily commute, but during harvest, I switch over to pop music. It energizes me on my way into work, and I don’t have to think too much about it on my way home when I’m tired. I make a harvest mix every year, and listening back to them always brings back great memories of each vintage.” —Sally Johnson Blum, director of winemaking, Robert Mondavi, Napa Valley, Calif.
“This is easy: Hands down, Wigwam Socks. They are made in my hometown of Sheboygan, Wis., by friends of mine. They are high quality and keep my feet warm, dry, and happy throughout the long wet days of harvest!” —Anne Hubatch, winemaker, Helioterra Wines, Portland, Ore.
“The one thing I can’t live without during harvest is wines from winemaker friends and colleagues that we can enjoy, learn from, and discuss with the team. That’s how we learn and grow. Also, nutritious snacks next to our press are essential. Especially nuts and dark chocolate keep us going through long harvest days and nights.” —Thomas Niedermayr, winemaker, Niedermayr Wines, Alto Adige, Italy
“A mobile phone! Harvest is a time where all the teams must coordinate at our best to be in the right parcels at the right time to get the very best of what nature can give us after a year of hard work tending the vines, and that takes a lot of constant discussions with a team members that taste the grapes and check their maturity, vineyard teams cutting the grapes, our cellar master that directs them, and so much more.” —Mathieu Roland-Billecart, CEO, Champagne Billecart-Salmon, Champagne, France
“We have a special ritual every year in order to face the harvest season — we buy and distribute special cellar jelly candy and sweets for the entire team to gain strength while feeling accomplished and enjoying the moment.” —Mercedes García Rupérez, winemaker, Bodegas Montecillo, Rioja, Spain
“My brother Ivan Giovanett and the winemaking team can’t live without our mother’s speckknödel with gulasch because it keeps the mood good and the energy high.” —Ines Giovanett, winemaker, Castelfelder, Alto Adige, Italy