Vintage 2022: Meet the Crew
Mar 01, 2022
Sunrise over the vineyards. Days spent sampling, tasting ferments, processing, cleaning and punch downs. Then rolling into the Indian Ocean for a sunset surf or swim. It’s vintage, and crew come from all over the globe to embrace the Margaret River way of life.
“I love the interactions with the client winemakers, we don’t see them as much over the year as we do during vintage. They’re here quite regularly over vintage and under pressure to get the grapes off at the right time. So that’s quite a hard decision to make and a big responsibility. They rely on us to get the analysis in quickly.”
Simon Ding, Chief Winemaker is heading into his 15th vintage at the Fish. The most challenging was last year. “The covid environment and lack of skilled internationals (into the country) meant we had to oversee everything and make sure it’s done properly.
We’re facing a similar situation this year - but we’ve had a new winemaker Tom arrive from New Zealand so that’s a huge bonus for us. Murdoch, who previously worked here as a winemaker is also joining us this vintage. Those guys on site makes life easier.”
So why do staff come back year on year? For Zac it’s the lifestyle. Work vintage, collect the kitty then chase swells and big waves. Louis wanted to make some coin straight out of high school. It’s hard work and after subsequent vintages, it was something he really enjoyed.
Louis’ partner Lili is a creative in the film industry and doing her first vintage in the Lab. “There’s a correlation between film making and winemaking. The lead up (pre-production in film), vintage (production itself), then bottling and dispatch (post-production). It’s fast-paced and a great culture, I’m really enjoying it so far.”
It's Giuliana's second vintage as the Head of Lab. Hailing from Mendoza in Argentina, she loves the close-knit family vibe with Blake recently teaching her how to surf.
Blake was lured by the diverse range of opportunities at Flying Fish. “Outside of vintage we work on side projects like beers in barrels and inventive stuff. A few batches (of beer) were made for the vintage workers this year. We’ve connected it to a keg in the fridge.”
It's a multicultural group of cellar hands with Italian couple Filippo and Ilario, Irish Matt and Aussie Pat.
Keeping the wheels turning in the background is Kerry, making sure the crew are well-fed and paid on time. She also works with the contract clients to ensure a seamless process during vintage.
What gets the crew through vintage? French press coffee from Commonage and a steady stream of homemade treats and sweets from contract clients. It's the different cultures and sharing stories of past vintages in the lunch room, and an ice-cold beer at the end of the day.
For Damon, vintage is a marathon not a sprint. The key to get through it? “Don’t burn out, keep your energy levels up and look after yourself.”
At the end of vintage everyone celebrates with a campout at the dam. It's become a tradition to catch marron, cook food over fire, windsurf and have yarns over the campfire under the starlit sky.
Working vintage can be a life-affirming experience. Many come away with great memories, new skills and long-lasting relationships.
Photo credits: Freedom Garvey & Russell Ord