Keeping vintage on track

John Phibbs - Active Refrigeration
John Phibbs - Active Refrigeration

Winery workers, vineyard workers and catering companies aren't the only ones feeling the pressure of vintage - Marlborough trade workers are on-call day and night for wineries in case machinery breaks down.

Active Refrigeration service supervisor John Phibbs was doing his daily checks when the Express visited them on site yesterday at Indevin Partners in Riverlands.

"We do checks seven days a week during vintage to make sure everything is performing because if they are not they can't control fermentation," Phibbs said.

Clint Stagg - NZ Electrical Solutions
Clint Stagg - NZ Electrical Solutions

If one of the machines breaks down "everything goes nuts", he said.

Phibbs and other tradesmen were working extended hours, he said.

"[The] normal working day is 8am to 4.30pm but at this time of year it is more like 12 to 15 hours a day depending on how many jobs there are.

Dave Kennington - Trade Tech Group maintenance engineer
Dave Kennington - Trade Tech Group maintenance engineer

"You get a bit tired and you are running on adrenaline."

A large part of wine production was down to tradies, he said.

Wineries aren't their only work though, he said. They still have normal callouts for non-vintage jobs.

Phibbs works with two other men and an apprentice to cover the busy time of the year, he said.

"We are on call 24/7. We don't have anyone working a night shift."

When they get called out to a job they do not know what they are going to get, he said.

"It's probably what keeps us going - the great unknown."

Sometimes they get callouts at 3am and are out until 7am, Phibbs said.

New Zealand Electrical Solution service manager Clint Stagg said he has had about 20 overnight callouts so far during this vintage.

It was not unusual for him to get a call as soon as he got into bed. "Last week, I just got in from a job [in the early morning], went to hop into bed flicked my legs over and my cellphone rang."

Trade Tech Group operational manager David Kennington had three men running night shifts to cover their callouts, from 7pm to 7am.

They service 85 per cent of Marlborough wineries so every breakdown was different, Kennington said.

He put the busy vintage season down to the "utter growth of the industry".