Harvest time in Fairhills country

31 May

“Marlen! Marlen!” That is the voice of my mother waking me from my sleep. It’s 5:10am, time for me to take her to work. My father left the house at 4:30am to begin with harvesting.

The noise of tractors and harvesting machines fills my ears as they pass our house. It’s time to get the grapes off the vineyards, an important period for each and every farmer. Harvesting starts early February and stretches over a period of three months till April, depending on the different types of cultivar and their sugarlevels.

My father works as a driver on a farm called Wangenheim, our home ground. The normal working hours for farm workers are as follow: Off-season hours (summer) from 7am till 5pm and season hours (winter) from 7:30am till 17:30pm, but everything changes when harvest time arrive. As for drivers, their day can start as early as 3am. Yes, when the cellarmasters and winemakers decide on which cultivar they want and at what time, there’s no choice than to start the day that early. They need the best quality from producers to make the best possible end-product, that’s why they are the people to decide which grapes should be harvested and at what time. Although the cellar only opens at 7:30am, it’s important for the grapes to be perfect when it arrives there.

An ‘almost wine’ smell coming from a nearby cellar fills the air when I get to the busstop where I wait on the Fairhills bus that transports me to and from work. That’s one thing I like about harvesting, you can smell what the grapes will be soon.

Harvesting is the best time of the year for eveyone in the valley, but it can be dangerous too. About five years ago we lost a tractor driver, a father, the breadwinner of the family, in an accident. A truck tried to overtake the tractor, not taking note of the oncoming traffic. He crashed into the tractor and knocked it over. The driver died on the spot. The tractor fell on his neck. Not a very pleasant story, but it is a reminder to be watchful and thankful. And everytime I look at a bottle of Natural Sweet Rosé, Pinotage, Merlot or Carbernet, I think of the early hours and sacrifices that made a simple bunch of grapes into a great wine.

*Written by Marlen Hendricks


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