Dropping grapes on the ground, a heartbreaking way to better wine

With thinning done, it's time for the nets to go on.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

With thinning done, it's time for the nets to go on.

I used to be able to buy a glass (or bottle) of wine without a care in the world – especially for those who toil on a daily basis to create what fills that particular glass or bottle.

Changed days.

In the relatively short time we have been the proud new parents of our little vineyard in paradise, we have had more sleepless nights, stress and worry than any of our collective three offspring or two labradoodles ever brought us.

Don't get me wrong. Like actual new parents, we love it. We are bursting with pride, we tell anyone who stands still long enough all about it and like childbirth, you forget the pain quickly as you appreciate the benefits.

However we have a new-found respect for the hard work of those making the decisions to ensure that harvest brings the best quality grapes that, in turn, will make the highest quality wine.

Yesterday in the vineyard was the green cut or final thinning; the time you take out a varying quantity of grapes, depending on what mother nature has thrown at this particular vintage. Certain weather conditions will bring greater numbers of bunches per vine and heavier weights of bunches. All of this is critical to the winemaker to ensure they get the best product for them to weave their magic in the winemaking process.

'Waste not want not '

Now it may be my Scottish blood, but I'm no fan of waste. Seeing beautiful bunches of grapes (that taste sensational!) lying disregarded – even if for the ultimate sacrifice – makes me sad but then, more positively, makes me start looking for ways they can be used.

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We're not alone, a quick drive around our neighbourhood shows many of the vineyards doing the same thing in their quest for the perfect vintage. I spent part of the day collecting the disregarded bunches and distributing them to family and friends (funnily enough not as much of a novelty for them in this wine region, as it would have been in urban Auckland!).

New friends find it wildly amusing that my newcomer eyes still marvel at the produce around us - and the amount that goes unused and unloved. They tell me that over the years I'll get used to it. I'm not so sure. I love the idea of using everything I can - for ourselves and sharing - and I have set myself a challenge this year of making maximum use of everything we produce. Not quite self sufficiency - I'm nowhere near capable enough for that - but at least a step in its general direction.

To be honest, some things are easier than others. Apricots? Plums? No problem.

So I up my challenge to try to make things I've never done before.

'Fun with grapes'

Finding good productive use for the surplus grapes is the current challenge.

After a quick trawl online, thoughts turn to verjuice and delicious natural juice from sun kissed grapes that on another day would have made stunning pinot noir. Then there's jams, jellies, raisins - thanks to a bored dehydrator - and when all else is done, there's compost! I have added these to my growing list of 'things to produce' in my search for using as much as I can from this wonderful little pocket of the world that we call home.

Of course there is always a silver lining – the birds are happy with this suddenly readily available and easily accessible food source so hopefully, if we are very lucky, they may focus on that and leave our netted precious bounty alone.

You can follow further tales of Fiona's search for the good life through her blog or on Instagram.

 - The Marlborough Express

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