While our side of the world has been battling snow, sleet, rain and bitter bitter cold, I got to soak up the sun in Paarl, South Africa at the vineyards of Backsberg Estate Cellars.

In the Northern Hemisphere we think of harvest as being synonymous with August, September and October. It is the exact opposite at Backsberg winery in the Southern Hemisphere and lucky for me, I got to experience it firsthand.

Waking up to the beautiful Simonberg Mountains at the crack of dawn was well worth it so that I could follow Alicia, the winemaker, up and down the rows to determine if the grapes were ready to pick that day or if we should wait for the next. First, we tasted the grapes because as Alicia sees it, the wine they produce should taste like the grapes. Then, we took the grapes to the lab where we crushed a range of super ripe to barely ripe grapes and stuck them in a machine that tested the juice for its sugar and ph level.

While we were there I was lucky enough to watch the picking and crushing of this year’s Backsberg Kosher Chardonnay and Backsberg Kosher Merlot. I also got to watch the Backsberg Brut being disgorged, filled dosage, and then corked for cellar aging. It was fascinating to watch all the steps that went into making the wine but it was the people who really brought the winery and wine together.

Come back next week to learn about the people and personalities that make Backsberg so unique and special.

Rachel Bennett