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Lessons from Down Under: Three Master Winemakers share their COVID Harvest Experience (Webinar)

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Update: Follow-Up Q&A from the Live Broadcast

Australia and New Zealand went into COVID-19 lockdown on March 23, right in the middle of Harvest. This webinar is a rare opportunity to hear, first hand, from three master winemakers who, without warning, had to navigate harvest with the sudden lockdown restrictions. These winemakers share their experience, insights, and lessons learned with Jamie Gilchrist, Co-Founder and Director of Sales, vintrace wine production software, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Join us during this free webinar to hear Jamie Gilchrist, Jeremy Dineen, Nikolai St George, and Dan Buckle reflect on:

  • What they would have done differently if they had time to prepare (COVID restrictions went into place after harvest had begun)
  • How they enacted social distancing and its effect on harvest
  • The role technology played
  • And other questions about the extraordinary circumstances they faced
Jamie Gilchrist

Moderated by:

Jamie Gilchrist
Co-Founder, Chief Sales Officer / vintrace

Co-Founder and Sales Director of vintrace wine production software, based in Melbourne, Australia. Jamie will share the interviews, add his perspective, and participate in a Q&A.

Winemaker Panel:

Jeremy Dineen
Winemaker & General Manager / Josef Chromy, Tasmania
Jeremy Dineen

Born and bred in Tasmania, Jeremy Dineen has been at the helm of Josef Chromy Wines since its inception in 2005.

Hand-picked by Josef to lead his namesake business, Josef Chromy Wines has since grown into one of Tasmania’s most successful wine businesses, producing premium estate wines, and offering contract winemaking services. Prior to this, Jeremy had already developed an intimate knowledge of Tasmanian viticulture, and the complexities associated with contract winemaking, during five vintages at Hood Wines in southern Tasmania with 38 vineyards under his care.

Nikolai St George
Chief Winemaker / Giesen, New Zealand
Nikolai St George

Nikolai St George leads Giesen’s winemaking team ensuring they offer a suite of wines for wine lovers across the world to enjoy. Nikolai joined Giesen in early 2016 bringing with him three consecutive ‘Winemaker of the Year’ titles: New Zealand Royal Easter Wine Show 2015 and 2013 and the 2014 New Zealand International Wine Show.

Originally from the King Country, Nikolai’s winemaking career has taken him around New Zealand and the world – including stints in Chile, France, Australia, and the United States.

Dan Buckle
Winemaking Director / Domaine Chandon, Australia
Dan Buckle

It might not be that surprising that Dan wound up in the wine industry. With his father owning his own vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula, Dan planted, pruned, and picked throughout his teenage years, and beyond.

After jumping into the restaurant and bar world, Dan studied for a Bachelor of Applied Science in Wine. It’s a tale of wanderlust from there, moving between vintages in Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne, and years at Coldstream Hills, Yering Station, and Mount Langi Ghiran.

Dan has been Winemaking Director at Domaine Chandon since 2012, where he guides the style of the winery’s méthode traditionnelle sparkling wines.

Update: Follow-Up Q&A from the Live Broadcast

Q: Any advice on distance on the sorting table? Ours is pretty tight.

A: We don’t have a sorting table, but you could look at Perspex screens from each side to reduce droplet transmission. There are similar issues with bottling lines.


Q: Did anyone wear masks or just rely on the 6ft rule?

A: Just distancing.


Q: Did you have to stagger breaks more so there were fewer people in break rooms? Or did you make additional break room space?

A: Yes – both. Expanded the outside area to allow for distancing across a larger table.


Q: Did you have workers wear masks? What type? Was there a difference in protocol between indoor and outdoor activities?

A: No masks. Outdoor transmission is less likely.


Q: How do you handle shoveling tanks if you typically put more than one person in the tank to shovel?

A: Consider other methods, like jetting the marc out. We have other workplace restrictions on both confined space and manual handling which have caused us to reconsider digging out vessels.


Q: How were you able to keep it paperless?

A: By using vintrace app on iPads.


Q: Not sure why you couldn’t get out to vineyards… by yourself if necessary?

A: Yes, we did this. Avoids boring conversations with growers too!


Q: What was the protocol on wearing masks and gloves for everyone on the teams during their shifts working together inside the winery?

A: No masks no gloves. Gloves are a false PPE if you then touch a contaminated surface and touch your face the glove doesn’t help much. We gave everyone a spray bottle of 70% ethanol, they spray everything they touch before and after. Gets easier with time.


Q: What were your preferred digital tool for harvest management, tracking, and team communications?

A: Combination of mobile phones, vintrace, and Microsoft teams. Teams for zoom and group chats, vintrace for all grape and wine stuff. We made a commitment to use vintrace product notes every time we tasted a juice/wine/fruit sample, helps when you can’t taste together to build up the volume of “impressions”. Simple notes like “could make an excellent Vintage BdN – do not blend”. You could probably do this with an excel file but it works easily on vintrace.


Q: I would love to hear any recommendations for smaller teams that need to work all as one shift. Thanks!

A: If you can, consider housing the whole team onsite for the critical period, so that the whole team is effectively isolated and cannot get infected. Establish new protocols for external parties coming to the winery (if they have to come at all), like truck drivers do not leave their truck cabin etc.

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