Working vintage with Jen Pfeiffer
Published by Nicole Russell - 19th Apr 2016
Before my trip to the Rutherglen, my experience of Winery’s included trips around the Hunter Valley visiting cellar doors and tasting good vino. This all changed as Daylee and I spent 4 days with our rockstar of a winemaker Jen Pfeiffer. We were warned before heading down that because of the warm weather, the vintage was progressing a lot quicker than usual and it was hinted that we would need much more of a hands on approach than we actually expected. ‘No problem’, I thought, ‘It will be cool to crush a few grapes’
So there we were driving along in our hire car with the sun well and truly setting over the countryside discussing what might be in store for dinner once we arrived at the Pfeiffer family vineyard. We pulled up, got out and walked cautiously into the winery looking around for Jen to greet us. We managed to catch her as she was dashing about still working to complete the 100’s of jobs still on her daily checklist. She took one look at us and said ‘What on earth are you guys wearing… this isn’t a holiday!’
This was at 8pm, and we were put to work straight away. First we helped tie up some bags of Gamay that were being pressed the next week. There were quite a few tonnes and we were tasked with tying up the bags whilst using CO2 to get rid of any oxygen in the bags. ‘Don’t worry if you get it wrong, you’ll only ruin a few tonnes of grapes’. Another attempt by Jen to set us at ease as I quickly began to realise that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
After mixing up some yeast and adding them to some of the reds already fermenting, it was time to get to know the Pfeiffer’s and their band of cellar hands over dinner… at 11pm. For those who do not know, the Pfeiffer family winery was first purchased in 1984 by Jen’s dad Chris, who was head winemaker up until Jen took the reigns in the mid 2000’s. Chris and his wife Robyn were incredibly welcoming, and showed this by preparing an amazing roast dinner for Daylee, Myself, and the others working in the Winery. The Pfeiffer winery and family home also plays host to a few international visitors. Each vintage Jen welcomes people from all over the world looking to broaden their winemaking knowledge by taking part in the Australian vintage. Each of the aspiring winemakers are from different countries, but all equally friendly and willing to help teach us a thing or two.
Over the course of the weekend Daylee and I were worked hard. We lifted, we crushed, we cleaned, we pumped, and we threw ourselves into the work. It was tough, and to be honest it was a little humbling. Through the whole thing, while we were close to being exhausted at the end of each workday, there was Jen powering through. From before 8am until 11pm she was going full throttle to make sure her daily checklist was finished. And granted, it isn’t like this all year round, but what we experienced left us with a profound appreciation for the work our winemakers do for us. From what I gathered, Jen in particular is incredibly hands on, involving herself in every aspect of the winemaking process, and still taking the time to explain, teach, and broaden our understanding of the whole process.
What better way to show our appreciation than to continue doing what we are doing, spreading the Naked word and making sure our winemakers are not only getting their fair share, but also the recognition they deserve. I have been working for Naked Wines for about 1.5 years now, and we have always known that winemakers get a raw deal from the major Supermarkets, but never has that been so obvious to me as right now. It will really make you think twice before picking up a discount wine from Dan Murphies for $6 p/b that should be retailing for twice that amount. Where does the discount come from? Because it certainly isn’t from the pocket of Mr. Murphy, that is for sure.
Tom Howcroft, Wine Advisor