Winemaking during the chaos of lockdown

Arno Smith with Saartjie, the famous pup after which the Saartjie wines are named.

Being a winemaker, we are used to coping under chaotic conditions.  Chaos during harvesting, chaos during winemaking, and chaos during wine selling. But, nothing in our wildest imagination could prepare us for the chaos caused by this virus and resulting lockdown.

What an amazing year it has been so far. Some people might say that 2020 is a complete write-off. But I would beg to differ. If I look back on the past few months, I could just be grateful for what we achieved and how things always work out as they should.

The beginning of 2020..

The year started off with a journey to Europe to go on a quest, and an adventure to solidify established connections and to find possible new Hillcrest family members.  Roaming the beautiful streets of Copenhagen, London, and the historic canals of Amsterdam, unsure of what the rest of the year would hold. Little did I know that I too would become part of a newly written story. A story which I am sure the next generation will read about in the history books.

After returning from Europe, the most exciting time of the year kicked off. And what an amazing harvest season 2020 had in store for us. A bumper, record-breaking crop, with amazing quality grapes, that has me overly excited about the new 2020 vintage to come.  Almost unaware of what’s going on in the outside world. I am in my little winemaking bubble and in full focus mode.  Everything went so well during the harvest season.

The white – and the rosé wines fermented beautifully and the reds went through all of their processes and were then stored away in their temporary oaky homes to mature in isolation. Happy to have been able to finish in time until I was sent into isolation myself.

A whole world brought to there knees. Almost surreal.

The bright side of lockdown..

I was fortunate enough to be able to be locked down on this majestic farm. Of course, with lockdown came so many uncertainties, worries, stress, and fear, but boy I was amazed every single day. Besides the fact that I went through a tremendous amount of self-growth. I found I had more time to focus on things that I wouldn’t necessarily have had the time to focus on in normal circumstances. I actually had more time to get to know the farm on an even deeper level.  The soil, every single hill, the breath-taking views from all the corners of the farm. All the plant species, exploring our conservation area from top to bottom, and all the different animal species, from the smallest of bugs to the harmonious sounds of hundreds of birds and animals. Nature doesn’t have a lockdown!

With each passing day the silence from man-made noise, made me listen for a change at what mother nature has to say. At times the silence was hurting my ears. But forcefully she made me see why this needed to happen. And seeing the most glorious Table Mountain clearer each day, because of the lack of air pollution is a sight I will remember forever.

Yes, these are chaotic times we are experiencing. And many uncertainties lie ahead for all of us.   And yes, there are times that we are struggling to keep our sanity. But, if we realize that we are all in this together, and rather help one another to see the positive side of a world rebooting itself. We will all get through this much stronger and wiser.

Thank you for all of your support during this time. Let the beauty in chaos continue…

Yours truly

Arno Smith

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