As Fairfax Media sits down to interview budding young winemaker Jade Hafey at Iron Gate Estate, she is handed two glasses of wine and asked what she thinks of the acidity.
So is the life of a training winemaker on the cusp of wrapping up her first vintage.
The 24-year-old Cessnock local picked a tough first year to learn.
The 2018 vintage was commonly referred to across the valley as “fast and furious” due to weather conditions over summer. Picking was completed earlier than usual and crop levels were down slightly due to above average temperatures and below average rainfall.
“It was a good year to learn,” Jade said. “From Christmas to March was really intense. I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that I’m going to have no social life for four months of the year.”
But she says the long days and hard work are all going to be worth it when the first wine goes to bottle in about a month’s time.
Iron Gate is set releasing a new range of wines this year with new labelling, bottles and packaging.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I feel really confident about it. I can’t wait to take the wine to barbecues and say ‘I made this’.
“It will be nice to see the 16-hour days pay off.”
Winemaking is a career that Jade almost fell into while working as a waitress elsewhere in the vineyards.
The previous owner of Iron Gate was a regular at the restaurant she worked at, and offered her a job in his cellar door while she was waiting his table one night.
She quickly fell in love with the industry, so put her hand up to help out with picking and pruning during the 2017 vintage. She then quit her biology degree and started a diploma of viticulture and winemaking at Kurri Kurri TAFE about a year ago.
She believes her experience in the cellar door has helped with winemaking, and vice versa.
“Winemaking makes you fall in love with the other side of it,” she said.
“And it’s easier to make winemaking decisions when you’re hearing from the people you’re selling to.
“Like when you’re in the industry, you like dry wine, but everyone else wants sweet.”
And despite being a relative newcomer to the industry, Jade is quickly finding her feet. She’s part of a group called Gen (Y)ine made up of about 40 young people in the industry.
“It’s opened me up to opportunities and helped me meet people,” she said.
“A lot of local people get into the industry through family or other connections, so I was very much an outsider, but it doesn’t feel that way.
“It’s a real community.”