Since the first bottle of Babich Wine was produced in 1916, the Babich Family has been a prominent part of the New Zealand wine industry. Now, almost 100 years later, Babich Wines, which exports to 40 countries across the world, is gearing up to celebrate its centennial anniversary. We speak to Senior Winemaker, Adam Hazeldine, about his day.
My day starts not long after the sun has risen. I go downstairs and make coffee and toast for my wife while encouraging my son (age 6) and daughter (age 4) to get dressed. I am lucky to live in close proximity to work, only 8km or so, meaning some days I drive, some days I cycle. Though the weather as of late has made the former option rather more appealing.
My work day begins with an 8am meeting with the cellar hands, supervisor and Auckland winemaker. Firstly, we discuss the previous day’s work, were there any problems, anything left unfinished? Points from these discussions are turned into improvement projects to ensure progress is made on a daily basis. We then discuss the work to be done that day which includes allocating tasks.
I am lucky to spend a large amount of my time working hands-on in the winery rather than sat behind a desk. My tasks today included blending up our organic Pinot Noir out of a barrel, unloading a tanker of Sauvignon Blanc sent up from our Marlborough winery, bottling some Sauvignon Blanc and sorting through empty oak barrels – the older ones are sent to the wine shop to be sold as planters – and cleaning, lots and lots of cleaning. It seems there is always something to be cleaned in a winery.
Following this, I take a look at the production board to ensure all required blends are working their way towards a bottle-ready state. I then take a stroll through the laboratory to scan through the analysis from the day before and discuss with our laboratory manager what further trials or additional wine analysis need to be done. It may sound dull but I find it exciting when the analysis of a new wine blend is on the page.
The more mundane part of my job comes in around mid-morning when I open my emails. Answering these can take anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours. After this, I spend time working on my current projects, which include planning improvements for our winery, such as computerised temperature controllers for our fermentation tanks which are due to be installed in time for our next vintage.
I always make time for a coffee and to have a chat in the lunchroom once emails have been answered. Sales representatives are strongly discouraged from visiting at this time!
Before lunch I will catch up with our Marlborough based wine-maker via phone or Skype. This facility is relatively new, less than a year old, so there is always plenty to discuss both related to winemaking and general running of the winery, moral, attitude etc.
If time allows I then consult my to-do list. Currently at the top of this is to finalise the Marlborough yeast selection for next vintage, review the last vintage’s winemaking plan for the Auckland winery and put a plan in place for 2015. For each grape variety (currently 14) and vineyard block we plan out harvest method, grape receival – do we crush and de-stem the grapes or whole bunch press? Must the parcel be fermented separately and with what yeast, at what ferment temperature and in what vessel – i.e. in barrel tank or open vat? Luckily, with nearly a hundred years of experience to call on, a lot of what we do is tweaking what we did in previous years, though we do also trial some radical new techniques. With wine making you only get one chance a year (harvest) to try new ideas and learn.
12.30 is lunch, generally at my desk which consists of equal amounts of eating and practicing the banjo.
With multiple tastings carried out each day, the job of a senior winemaker is not one for those who do not enjoy wine. As part of my daily walk around the winery to ensure everything is in fine shape I will taste barrels to see how each is maturing. Most afternoons there is a formal tasting, or possibly a fining trial, where a near finished wine is tasted with different rates and type of fining agents. Minute amounts (parts per million) of proteins such as gelatine, isinglass, egg white, milk etc. can bind to and remove astringent tannins and increase the smoothness of the palate. Today, however, I (along with a panel of tasters – owner and winemakers) looked at potential Syrah and Pinot Noir blends.
Following a quick afternoon coffee break, my days end with a quick catch up with management and picking up my mail in the main office, clearing emails once again and a quick tasting of the wines that have been sent off to the laboratory that day. I will often enjoy a glass of wine (either new bottling or whatever is open) with the guys before heading home.
While there is some structure to my job, I am blessed with a lot a variation in my daily routine. This is how my days have been lately. Though I must note, during vintage (the grape harvest) everything is turned on its head and the hours are not kind.