We ended January with 15 mms of rain…on the afternoon of our first Twilight Concert (no I’m not bitter).
The next pick, due two days later was cancelled, as the sugar levels had been diluted by the rain, resulting in less busy days in the winery.
We monitor the ferments, the aim is for them to reduce one sugar level and increase in one alcohol level per day – controlled by adjusting the temperature of the tanks- the lower the temperature, the slower the fermentation.
Once ferments are completed, the wine is racked off the yeast lees, the leftover solids from the ferment and Derek starts the fining up processes.
An advantage of the slower progress of vintage is that Derek has had lots of time to think, plan and prepare, something that’s lucky as we now have a heatwave coming up; 5 days of 38+ weather! We’ve been watering for a couple of days to help the vines through this, but as most of the red grapes are still on the vine, its not ideal.
Some Shiraz was picked before the heat and some just at the end of the heatwave, this wine is fermenting as I type- yields are down but it will be a big, rich, ripe one!
This warm weather will result in wines with very forward flavour with a lot more sweet and fruity characteristics, while cooler years produce wines that take longer to develop and less obvious fruit characteristics.
Vintage seemed to begin early this year, I think it was because we’d just got back from visiting family in the UK and a bit jet lagged started back at work.
Fortunately James had spent most of Christmas checking the irrigation (apologies to Carol, his wife) as we’d had a number of really warm days, monitoring and adjusting the irrigation, was critical.
The fruit was in good condition and though it felt like an early start to vintage, in actual fact it was only two days earlier than last year. Interestingly it seems that vintage is creeping earlier each year, over the last 20 years vintage has moved about three weeks earlier, it’s the same across all grape growing regions in Australia!
The first pick was the Chardonnay for our Sparkling base on Monday 11 January, then we were into it with picking Chardonnay on the Wednesday 13, and Verdelho on Friday 15 and Monday 18th.
We got 10mm of rain on Tuesday 19th, so we cancelled the Wednesday pick; so a surprise day off right in the thick of it. Derek was glad he’d done that, as Friday’s Verdelho pick was perfect; perfect baume (indicator of the sugar level), perfect condition.
Derek is pretty happy with everything so far, the fruit all looks good, the berries seem smaller than usual which suggests that we’ll have really good, intense flavours. We struggle to predict anything useful this early in vintage, but its all looking good!
Each year we take on a young cellar hand to help with vintage, this year we’ve got Rudaridh back from last year. He was a lovely young Scottish…policeman. Apparently you know you’re getting older when the policeman start to look younger! Well Rudaridh was having a gap year from the police and backpacking around and worked vintage for us las year- a real change to policing in Edinburgh. Over the year he met a girl and is planning to stay in Perth for the next few years, so he’s been transferred to the WA Police, but while that’s all getting sorted we’ve got him back for vintage!
And yes we did consider not giving him the job, ‘cos we couldn’t say his name… said Ruwery (to rhyme with Brewery)!