Thousands of meals later a Marlborough catering company supplying good, nutritious food for wine industry workers is winding down as the last grapes come off the vines.
Since harvest kicked off in earnest in early April, BV Gourmet has produced about 25,000 meals, reaching a peak of almost 1000 a day during the busiest period.
Vicki Young, who runs the business with her husband Craig and Janet Enright, said harvest was one of the busiest times of the year for their catering operation.
“Probably the biggest challenge is co-ordinating the suppliers, the food orders, the staff and winery orders. I’m looking forward to a slightly slower few weeks now it’s pretty much over,” she said.
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The company, which was in its seventh year making harvest meals, had contracts with 23 different wine companies and vineyard contractors to keep their workers well fed.
Young said they had to take on extra staff to meet demand. Between eight and 10 kitchen staff made the meals, and another eight to 10 packed, and delivered them to the wineries.
Most wine companies had stopped running 12-hour shifts, so Young said it had become a lot quieter although she said some meals would keep being made until mid-May.
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Each week BV Gourmet sent out a menu catering to different dietary requirements, which included new meals each day. This Thursday it was lamb pies, and Friday was fish cakes.
“It’s important for the wineries that their workers have good energy levels and a lot of that comes down to their diet, so we need to provide good balanced meals,” Young said.
This year the meals were being made at their new, purpose-built facility in the Riverlands Industrial Estate, called BV Industrial, which opened just before harvest kicked off.
Young said they invested in the facility, which also included a cafe that opened two weeks ago, as a second site to their Blenheim kitchen, which they had outgrown for their catering operations.
Wine Marlborough chairman Rhyan Wardman said harvest was practically over. Any remaining grapes for table wines would probably come in before the weekend when more rain was forecast, he said.
This year the harvest was characterised by a number of large downfalls, including heavy rainfall from ex-Cyclone Cook and ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie which ramped up disease pressure.
“What it has highlighted is good viticultural practices and good yield management which has resulted in some very good grapes being harvested and good wines currently fermenting.
“It’s been a reminder to all of us that it is agriculture, and there are some years where you just have to work a little bit harder to get the right result.
“It’s been a challenging harvest, there’s no denying that.”
Wardman said the presence of botrytis, combined with warm dry conditions over the past week could result in some interesting botrytised, or late harvest, wine this year.
“It’s called noble rot, effectively the botrytis dehydrates the berries so it concentrates the flavours, the sugar and the acid inside a shrivelled berry,” he said.