Harvest Blues


Looters take home booty, while barrels for South Africa’s best whites float by.

Photo by Tom Hurley

Temperatures are rising. In thermometers and in winemakers’ pulses.
Where are the barrels?
The grapes are nearly ready. The green is turning golden. The space in the barrel room is ready for the expected new white wine barrels.
But the barrels are on a wintry beach, on England’s rocky south coast.
Winemakers order their barrels hand-made from French coopers to arrive in the last week of January each year, 2 weeks before the juice is ready for them.
The bad news is beginning to spread around.
More than 2000 barrels destined for South Africa’s premium white wines left France last week on the MSC Napoli, as part of the 2400 container cargo bound for Cape Town.
The ship was broken in two by storms last week and lies, tilted at 35 degrees, on Devon beach.
I used to be involved in the barrel business. I know that every day this week importers will be fielding calls saying something like “Where are my barrels?”
The sad news is that the barrels are not coming.
We’re going to have to learn to like tank-fermented Chardonnay.


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