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Giving thanks for fruit of the vine

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The ceremonial sprinkling of holy water on the first load of grapes delivered to Sevenhill Cellars marked the start of the 2018 vintage at the Jesuit-owned winery in South Australia’s Clare Valley.

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Sevenhill parish priest Fr Paul Fyfe SJ conducted the vintage blessing on February 27 when 2.8 tonnes of Gewürztraminer grapes harvested earlier that day were tipped into the winery’s crusher.

Winery staff and members of Sevenhill’s Jesuit community gathered for the annual ceremony, which draws on a tradition that can be traced to the times of the Old Testament when grapes were given a special honour as the first fruits of the harvest.

HOLY HARVEST: Fr Paul Fyfe SJ at the blessing ceremony with, from left, Sevenhill winemaker Liz Heidenreich, cellarhand Clemént Fustier, Fr Joseph Sobb SJ and Br Mukesh Patel SJ.

The vintage blessing included prayers and readings from the Gospel, giving thanks for the fruits of the harvest and seeking a safe and productive passage for those involved in the many aspects of making the new wines.

Fr Fyfe delivered a message of thanks and hope:

“Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, for from your goodness we have received the fruit of the vine, the work of human hands. It will become for us the wine of your Kingdom.”

Sevenhill’s vintage blessing was introduced in the mid 1980s when the parish priest Fr Ted O’Connor SJ and winemaker-manager Br John May SJ invited winery staff and resident Jesuits to share in a formal ceremony to celebrate the start of the annual grape harvest.

Fr Fyfe said it would have been commonplace for the Jesuits involved in winemaking following Sevenhill’s settlement in 1851 to have offered private prayers during their daily worship for the safe passage of vintage.

The Jesuits planted vines at Sevenhill to produce sacramental wine for their own use and it was also sold to churches in the emerging colonies.

Sacramental wine remains an essential part of Sevenhill’s operation and the winery has also developed a highly regarded reputation for its table wines that are produced from estate-grown fruit.

Sevenhill Cellars marketing manager Paul McKee said early indications were that the 2018 vintage in the Clare Valley would produce high-quality wines, with attractive varietal character.

Although spring and summer were marked by dry conditions, rain at critical times during the growing and ripening season ensured sound development of the fruit.

He said the warm days and cool nights leading into vintage have allowed gentle development of the crop, allowing harvesting to occur at optimum ripeness.

Vintage is expected to continue into early April, with picking of red varieties and fortifieds, which are left to slowly ripen for maximum sweetness and flavour.

 

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