Before completing her first vintage with Rapaura Springs, Elly Jiwoo Lee worked as a laboratory technician in Korea. Elly made the leap into the wine industry in 2021, she shares some of the highlights, as well as the challenges for anyone considering applying to work a vintage.
My first experience working in the wine industry was so different from my previous role. It was intense, hectic and a little dirty, but so exciting! In 2021 I moved to Marlborough with my partner and was looking for work, when the opportunity came up to do a vintage at Rapaura Springs. I never expected to be making wine, but I've absolutely loved it.
What is a typical day like working in a winery during harvest?
There are so many processes and tasks involved in making wine. Depending on the size of the winery and the season you can be assigned to one job all harvest, or work across the winery. I worked in the lab so it was my job to complete all the analysis on the grapes, grape juice and fermenting wine.
There's lots of cleaning and long days, we work 12 hour shifts, six days a week in the peak of harvest. But the people you work with are amazing, you get to meet incredible people from all over the world and the energy and excitement of vintage is exhilarating. You don't notice how tired you are! Plus there's always lots of coffee.
For you, what were the best bits about vintage?
I loved the people, you make so many new friends. I also found the work incredibly satisfying. I had the chance to see the grapes, through to juice, fermentation and then to wine, so I got to be involved in the entire process. I was so excited to try our first 2021 Sauvignon Blanc and know that I had made this wine.
Do you have any tips for anyone considering their first vintage experience?
If you're considering it - do it! You learn so many skills that can allow you to make wine around the world, if that is something you want to do. You also get the chance to save some money as we work long hours and have meals on the job.
We still have a few vacancies on our team to make our 2022 wines. You can find out more details here.