Perfect grapes, hail storm, crazy harvest

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Wooden box with harvested grapes

Perfect grapes, hail storm, crazy harvest

We went to the vineyard three times between September 16 and 22 to pick our grapes. In the end, everything went smoothly, but due to a hailstorm it could have turned out differently.

What a crazy wine year 2023! After our vines were not affected by fungal diseases in the too wet early summer (unlike many others), our vineyard subsequently developed magnificently, both quantitatively and qualitatively. For a long time, everything seemed to point to a rich harvest, until one evening in August, a hailstorm destroyed about 70% of our grapes within minutes.

Fortunately, the hail did not ravage the whole vineyard. So still some grapes of quite good quality remained. Nevertheless, the frustration was deep. Only two days before the hail, we had carried out plant protection measures and mowed the grass.

Grape harvest with splendid weather

A few weeks later we were already preparing for the grape harvest and started it on September 16 in beautiful weather early in the morning at 07:00. We harvested 1,400 kg of Kisi and 900 kg of Rkatsiteli, both varieties from which we produce dry amber and orange wines, respectively.

Sorting out the bad grapes from the crop

After distributing the grapes on wooden boxes, we sort out the bad grapes and foliage.

The second day starts perfectly, too

The following day greeted us with equally beautiful weather. The 20 harvest workers from the village were joined by ten friends and acquaintances from Tbilisi – an international team with people from eight different countries. After the nearly three tons of Saperavi grapes had been picked, we drove to Eniseli in front of our wine cellar and began pressing.

Pressing the grapes in front of our wine cellar in Eniseli

Grape pressing in front of our wine cellar in Eniseli.

A hailstorm brings devastation

The electric press, which automatically sorts out the stems, quit working after about an hour. Just when it was repaired after another 1.5 hours, clouds moved in and it began to drip. We covered the grapes with a tarp and wanted to continue. But within a minute, the harmless drizzle turned into a massive hailstorm. 

Hailstones of 2-3 cm in diameter turned the garden into a winter wonderland, the temperature dropped by at least 15 degrees, the trees were leafless within minutes. We immediately had to run to safety.

A garden hoe covered by hail stones

A garden hose buried under hailstones 1 to 3 cm in diameter.

Working in the dark until 3 a.m.

When the storm subsided, it was not only dark, but the whole village was without electricity. So we got Vano’s old hand press. But since it doesn’t fit on our clay amphorae and stainless steel tanks, we had to press everything by hand into a special, wide stainless steel barrel and distribute it from there to the fermentation tanks and clay amphorae with 20-liter plastic buckets, illuminated by the smartphone lights, which gradually went out as well.

At 23:00, Alika had the great idea to have a chacha (pomace brandy) at every break. At 03:00 we were done. Tired and exhausted.

This is an adventure we won’t soon forget, and considering the work that went into it, this wine just has to be good 🙂