The temperature dial is turned up, grapes are ripening, cellars are already a tangle of pipes, whirring crushers and clunking presses; winemakers are getting used to late nights and early mornings, periods of hectic activity and sleepy boredom. Everyone has their own way of dealing with harvest time, music is often the answer.
Cellars across the winelands are alive with music. Your taste is for Baroque and Classical periods? DeMorgenzon is the place to visit, where the vines are serenaded as well as the wines; you could even stay there two weeks without a musical repeat; ‘It was quite a feat,’ admits co-owner, Hylton Appelbaum, who compiled the playlist. Signal Hill’s Jean-Vincent Ridon explains a classical favourite such as Bach’s Goldberg Variations played by Glen Gould, has a restrained pure energy which encourages elegance in his wines.
Music may inspire the winemaker and the wine; it may also have a practical purpose. Gus Dale of Seven Springs plays the Eagles’ Hotel California, quipping ‘at harvest you can check out, but never leave!’ Moreover, the song is the perfect length for punch downs.
Different times of day, different energy levels, different moods; each inspires its own musical encouragement. ‘Mornings could be reggae or Manu Chao, midday some opera and evening heavy rock,’ muses Edgebaston’s David Finlayson, noting ‘post midnight, just death metal!’.
When the press needs to be filled, emptied or at the end of the day big clean up, Paardeberg resident winemaker, Jasper Wickens serenades his Swerver wines with energetic African beats, Jukula or Johnny Clegg, also Paul Simon’s Graceland. At the other end of harvest and the reds are slowly relieving their wine in the press is the time for some psychedelic Pink Floyd, Neil Young’s Harvest album, ‘or the hauntingly beautiful folk songs of Joan Baez.’ Just to make absolutely sure everyone can hear this eclectic selection, some on vinyls, it is ‘pumping from Nad amps and six speakers in the cellar’s rafters.’
An echo further down the Paardeberg, Adi Badenhorst is understood to also go retro with vinyls and a turntable; very Adi!
Experience in cellars around the world has its own influence on playlists. Tremayne Smith, owner/winemaker of The Blacksmith range (he also crafts Fable wines), fell in love with The Budos Band while working in California in 2015. Their ‘afro-soul inspired by Ethiopian music with a soul undercurrent’ producing jazzy, metal-like appeal, has been the go-to choice every harvest since. Other Metal bands such as Revocation and Haste the Day also inspire Tremayne’s wines with their tattoo-like labels.
Raising wines to the sound of music is no new phenomenon. Some 35 years ago, John and Erica Platter owned Delaire, where John made wine in the small cellar (very different and low-tech compared with the one on the farm today). ‘I blasted the winery with the Beethoven and Mahler biggies, plus favourites like Miriam Makeba and the Beatles to lighten the waiting tedium (pleading with flagging yeast not to give up!) as well as embolden me to take the occasional risk and cheer myself up,’ John recalls.
Now, about that current wine in your glass, what music do you think inspired its success?