When things go wrong in winemaking

Published by Tamara Harrison - 8th Jul 2019

You might not believe it, but things can go wrong with winemaking. Winemakers are actually human and not super-human beings! With such a complex process, there’s always a chance for slip-ups. Here’s winemaker Brian Fletcher from WA to chat with us about when things go wrong with winemaking.

In my days I can recall a few issues and anecdotes; the tank door popping out on 90,000 litres of prime Riesling juice (I was asleep, being on the night shift, the boys said it was a real spectacle). The 180,000 litres of Chardonnay being topped up when it was already full, the (very) large blend of a premium Cabernet rose, a 90,000-litre tank of Semillon lost in the system, to be discovered months later like a Roman ruin. Stuck red fermenters, suddenly vomiting the total load out into oblivion, etc. 

The most important thing here though is to have an excuse. It has to be half believable, you may be able to blind ’em with science but it gets tricky when you are dealing with experts. Bluster doesn’t work, so better to weave a tricky mixture of obfuscation. You may need to recall a long list that, like all good winemakers, is stored in that part of the brain and so readily available time-wise to make a quantum computer blush. You may need to consult close winemaker friends, although that strategy implies that are very close friends as winemakers are notorious gossips. As well it implies you have made an error and that’s simply not possible.

I find that when I’m blending up stuff is where the errors manifest themselves as introspection in hindsight – did I do the right thing, have I left sufficient options open or have I closed the door? Did I bend up too much or too little and the obvious consequence of lowering the blend quality or raising it to a point of irrelevance in terms of volume?




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