Tour Locations | Cellar Audio Guide: From Berry to Barrel to Bottle
LOCATION 5 | Cellar Audio Guide: From Berry to Barrel to Bottle
5. Vine and Berry: The Receiving Bin
NARRATOR: The illustration on this signboard follows grapes from the vineyards outside through to the start of the fermentation process. We’ll go through them all in a moment, step by step, but first, look down over the railing, past the signboard.
Can you see the window with bars in front of it? It’s at the bottom of a flight of stairs.
Now look out of that window. There’s some blue netting covering a square receptacle made of metal. Spotted it? That’s the aptly named receiving bin. It’s where the grapes are deposited after harvest, and it’s the start of their journey into your glass.
At this point, Boela and Floricius have already made one of their most important decisions. They’ve chosen to harvest a particular grape variety at a particular time, with so much precision that every hour counts, and they already know a lot about next year’s wine. Here’s Boela again.
BOELA: Winemaking starts in summer. We spend a lot of time in the vineyard and we monitor the ripeness. Literally, first week January, we go into the vineyards, and we start sampling.
It’s amazing how the flavours of especially sauvignon blanc change over a two, three week period. It goes from very green, grassy to more sort of riper, more tropical, fig, fruit…But even the red grapes...the mouth-feel of red wine is very important. And it’s amazing, if you chew the grapes, [um,] you’ll get an indication of where the wine’s going to. You taste the grapes, and when you get to the profile where you want to be…that’s when you take it off.
We do the grape sorting in the vineyard, so we work with massive teams… we work with teams between 80, 90 plus people per day. So the guys, they pick very, very slowly sometimes…making sure that only the best stuff comes into the winery.
The whole story at Groot Constantia is that it is the oldest wine farm in the country. And there’s something special in the soil and the climate that allowed Groot Constantia to be successful for more than three centuries. You’ve got to translate that into the bottle, because that’s what makes Groot Constantia different from the rest of the industry.
NARRATOR: The first illustration on the board in front of you is of the grapes being harvested. They’re deposited in the receiving bin next, where a large electric screw pushes them down into the cellar below. You can see an example of the screw in the second illustration.
The grapes are still attached to their stems at this point, but because stems make wine bitter, the grapes are placed in a machine called a destemmer crusher next. That’s the contraption in the third picture. It looks like a big, perforated drum. Inside it, there’s a long metal pole that looks like the trunk of a tree because it has smaller poles branching off of it.
When that pole turns, the berries are squashed out through the perforations in the drum, leaving the stems behind.
Nothing but juice, flesh, pips, and skins are left. This mixture, which you see in the fourth illustration on the board, is called the mash.
Look at the wall to your left. Can you see the thick steel pipe that runs along it? The mash is pumped through that pipe, along the wall behind you, on its way to the next stage of the winemaking process – the press.
Let’s go see what that looks like, shall we? Turn so that the long signboard and the receiving bin are on your left, and head over to location number six.