In Student Articles

A darks screen appears. Slowly glimmers of light start to peak through to form a word – WINEMAKER. Gentle soothing music plays as we zoom out on the Earth. Then swiftly cut to a vineyard. Ladybugs fly happily. A cricket or two sings in between some bunches. All of a sudden the roar of quad bike disturbs the peace. The ecosystem is in pandemonium, a hand reaches into the canopy removes some grapes and then retreats. The quad bike disappears and the ecosystem recovers from the chaos and returns to its peaceful activities.

*David Attenborough voice  starts* Winemakers. The world’s greatest profession. The only career on Earth to witness the full majesty of fermentation. There is much more here than we ever imagined.*Cut to shot of David Attenborough standing in barrel storage* I am standing right where the winemaker would taste his vintage wines for the first time each year. To the north of me is the bottling line. To the west is the tasting room. Behind me is the most exciting place of  all – the cellar. From the shiny fermentation tanks to the cool barrel store – rarely seen places and untold stories. There’s nowhere in the world where wildlife puts on a greater show. This is the last place on earth where you can come eye to eye with the greatest animals that walk our planet. This is the winemaker.

Today we delve into the habitat and life of a wild creature that roams our land. From exotic locations like Australia and California, from France to South Africa this creature has been moulded and developed wherever the climate permits. The results of convergent evolution have never before been as evident as with the winemaker.

Let’s start by identifying a winemaker in the wild – there are a few key characteristics to look out for. The easiest way is to look at the feet, typically a winemaker will be wearing a pair of practical sturdy boots – waterproof and preferably  dark brown colour to hide any red wine or chemical staining. In the winter it more difficult to find a winemaker, you need to have a keen eye to find the small giveaway details, jeans or khaki pants equipped with a tank sample key or  the faint smell of wine in their clothes.

In the summer it is far easier to identify a winemaker. A tell-tale sign you’ve encountered a one is to look at their hands , if it is stained red and covered with cuts, blisters and plasters then you know you have stumbled across one. During the summer time the winemaker always smells like yeast and sugary grape must. They have shred the excess winter weight during a natural phenomenon called “harvest bod”. They need to do this in order to be nimble and quick during harvest ; climbing presses, fitting between barrels and cleaning out tanks. In addition to this it is also necessary for the winemaker to look at its prime to prevent their mate from leaving them in this period – the lack of attention the winemaker’s mate experiences during this time causes tension in the relationship.

The natural habitat of the winemaker varies slightly from winemaker to winemaker but they all live in an environment with one common factor – a cellar. The cellar is the building which a winemaker may spend up to 70% of the time. The other 30% is spent between the vineyard, the local watering hole and their residing area.

The diet of the winemaker, like most wild animals, is dependent on the season. In the cooler months of winter the winemaker needs to form a layer of padding to survive the harsh conditions of the cold barrel storage room and the icy cellar. This is done through a high consumption of red wine and braaivleis; for the South African winemaker only, other winemakers may feast on barbeque foods.  As the warmer months approach and the commotion of harvest starts the winemaker survives off shots of grappa and coffee in the morning hours and then progresses to wine and ends off each day with a cold beer to be drunk with their wolf pack namely the assistant winemaker and interns.

Now, we have explored the habitat and the habits of the winemaker. Their wild ways are less of a mystery and another one of Earth’s great wonders has been illuminated. The next time you encounter a winemaker in the wild – do not be scared. During summer or as they call it “harvest” the winemaker may be irritable and snappy due to lack of sleep and stress but they can be tamed with good wine and company. While in the winter they are more approachable and appreciate any distraction from their life of filtering and bottling.

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