First Quarter Protégé Report – Logan Jooste, 1st year (Viticulture)


My first harvest at Ernie Els Wines was an amazing experience. Before this harvest, I have never been in the vineyard during harvest. My mission during harvest was primarily to make sure that the people harvesting the grapes left no grapes behind on the vine, unless not in a usable condition and harvest no leaves as they go along. This was difficult to maintain because four rows were harvested at once, which means I had to shift between rows. There were some days where some of the permanent workers of the farm also harvested. During these days, I helped out on the tractor, removing any leaves from the bins that were harvested.

The first grapes to arrive at the cellar were not grapes harvested on the farm and were Cinsaut noir (also known as Hermitage). When these grapes arrived, I helped out at the cellar, sorting grape°Cs, taking out leaves and other MOG (material other than grapes).

Figure 1: Cinsaut noir arrives at the cellar


Figure 2: Vibrating sorting table

Figure 3: Removing MOG

The first grapes that we harvested were Merlot from block number 7. This Merlot is grafted on rootstock 101-14 Mgt, as most other cultivars on the farm.

It was amazing to see how quickly the workers harvest the grapes as well as the energy they harvest with. Every morning they couldn’t wait to start harvesting. I have also carried only a few crates and those few crates made me quite tired. I have to say, it is quite astonishing to see how the workers kept going throughout the day, carrying full crates of grapes, especially the Malbec, which had very big berries and bunches.

At Ernie Els wines, we only harvested from early morning till mid-afternoon. The reason for harvesting during this period of the day is so that the grapes are not too warm when it arrives at the cellar. The rest of the afternoon we washed the crates so that it can be ready for the next day’s harvest and continued with work that needed to be done, for example mice control.

Figure 8: Mice control

Something also new and exciting during harvest was learning how to drive a tractor and from time to time also delivering the grapes to the cellar. To drive a tractor is not that difficult but to drive a tractor with a harvest-wagon attached is not as easy.

One of my other assignments during harvest was to sample bunches from different Cabernet Sauvignon blocks. The reason for these samples was to determine the window period of harvest to achieve fresh fruit aromas displayed in the wine, by use of the berry aromatic sequence and sugar loading. I weighed 100 berries, ten berries from ten bunches and measured the sugar content of the grapes. To harvest during this window period was difficult seeing that the season was generally about three weeks early and due to the fact that there was just not enough time to harvest all the blocks at fresh fruit stage.