Lessons from Down Under webinar: Navigating harvest in the time of COVID-19

May 28, 2020

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, vintrace wine production software, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Join us to hear 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

Webinar Q&A

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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