Up close

Five hours of my day spent picking grapes today – one of the few day that I “honestly” get involved in the wine business, in the strange way that we seem to value physical labour above all else in our society.

Five hours picking grapes is a good workout, another way to look at it. It allows you to have the lamb and Luddite shiraz by the tumbler afterwards with a sense of great satisfaction. It was Niels and Penny Verburg’s shiraz that we picked, in weather that was more European than South African, cool, with intermittent showers.

What you see up close are the details that seem to mean a great deal, but often swept up in the cliches of wine marketing. The slope of the hill and the way the grapes look different here, on this end, than they do on the other. The ends, with their wind-bitten paucity of bunches, and the middle, where the bunches hang resplendent. The bottom of the block, planted to another clone, where the bunches are thicker even, though the leaves are light on the plant. The families picking together.

And what I like, even though any talk of vintage and place-specific wines is washed away in the everyday and over-used banalities that producers use: that the block is unirrigated, so the vines have to react to the season as natural plants do, unaided by a refreshing drenching. The old fashioned way.

But then again, it is Luddite Syrah.