The latest from Zig Zag Rd

Apr 2, 2024

Farming, where a year’s hard work doesn’t promise sweet-tasting returns

It’s the time of the year when vignerons (winemakers who grow grapes) proudly harvest their fruit and share gorgeous photos of picking rows of plump fruit and begin the process of making their wine – we call it vintage.

It the time of the year we’d hope to be sharing photos of a bumper crop. Our estate grapes are something special – most are grown on 50-year-old ungrafted vines which lends an extraordinary complexity to the fruit. The result is premium wine.

After a couple of tough-ish years, our regenerative vineyard was coming into its own. Everything was looking amazing. The vines and soil were in perfect order and spring and early summer were whispering of a vineyard chock full of primo fruit. It would make a vigneron salivate in expectation.

But on Christmas eve, it hailed. It hailed for so long that children made snowmen.

And it hailed, very specifically, only on a handful of places, one of which was ours. It was like someone had gone through our vineyard with a machine gun.

We weren’t sure how bad it would be. We knew we’d lost about 50% of the delicious-looking early crop (our beloved Pinot), but we hoped the rest would come good.

As we approached harvest the hard truth landed hard. We’d lost most of the crop, but not all. And thank GOODNESS that tiny percentage is blooming great. The small percentage of vines unharmed by the hail produced beautiful, perfect grapes for making wine.

It’s really hard to convey how hard this is, piled on a challenging start to the year as the cost-of-living crisis hit us all. People are taking fewer holidays, buying less wine. We get it, and so does our fellow Macedon Ranges vignerons.

But for farmers everywhere, whatever they grow, this harvest reminds me of how volatile a life it is, always at the mercy of weather. A poor crop is tough, really tough, but in the context of the wider world right now, I step back and see this for what it is, which is a small knock. You get back up and do it again.

So to all farmers out there, may the literal fruits of your labour be sweet, if not this year, may next be doubly sweet!

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