How many bunches of grapes to make a bottle of wine?
This one is all about variety and clones. Chardonnay clones vary a lot so do the bunch weights. Clone 1066 bunches average at 70-80 grams, Clone 95 chardonnay can top out at 150-160 grams. Syrah is anywhere from 120-280 grams.
“Good” chardonnay whole bunch pressed you may only recover 650 litres per 1000 kilograms, more commercial styles on machine picked fruit you can recover 750 litres per 1000 kilograms.
Reds like Syrah are fermented with the skins then pressed out, 680 litres per 1000 kilo a good norm.
So for Rangiwai chardonnay with four clones, we need 9-10 bunches of chardonnay to make 750ml of wine.
Are your grapes harvested by hand?
All kokako wines are made from hand-harvested fruit. But as a grape grower, 90% is machine harvested for other wineries.
Finding labour to hand-pick grapes was super hard in 2022, we did ours all in-house with our permanent staff, our volumes are low and it was easy enough. Others struggled. 24 pickers may get 3000-4000 kilograms picked in a day if the fruit is clean and the bunches are easy to find. One machine could pick several hundred tonnes in the same day.
Why handpick then?
Control. With handpicked fruit, we can then chill it overnight in a cool store without the juice oxidizing, as the juice is still locked up inside the berries. This cooled fruit gets tipped into the press, but still no oxidization! As the bunches press against each other the juice is very clear, running through other berries on the way out of the press cage. The result is clean juice without too many solids and little oxidation. It can be pumped straight to the barrel ready for fermentation. Little handing, little intervention. Oxidation can lead to bitter compounds in wine by the way.
If this was machine picked, the same fruit would be a slurry of juice and berries from the moment it was picked, then tipped into a truck for transport, then tipped into a receival bin at the winery, then tipped or pumped/pushed into a press, juice would be brown by this stage. All the tipping and pushing mean there are a lot more micro solids in the juice. Many wineries would settle this juice in a cold tank overnight and then pump it into barrels. Or fill a few barrels from the press direct and deal with the extra solids in the barrel later.
What do you mean by the term “Growers Wines”?
As a winemaker and viticulturist, I struggle sometimes with the lack of credit given to the grape grower. There is a saying, ‘you can make crap wines from good grapes, but you can’t make good wine from crap grapes.’
So this term partly is to celebrate the person, place, and practice that grow the fruit that is the raw material, Then with not too much intervention turn that fruit into great wine. Secondly, the wines are ‘our’ style us being the grower.