Today’s guest blogger is winemaker Teresa Heuzenroeder.
I often get told that winemakers must be relaxed outside of vintage. After all, what else is there to do for the rest of the year? So I thought this might be a good opportunity to provide a winemaker’s post-vintage snapshot from a Chardonnay perspective.
For me there are three distinct stages Chardonnay needs to go through once the hyperactivity and nervous anticipation of vintage is over. We know the flavours and textures we tasted in the vineyard, but there’s still a way to go before we can realise that vineyard vision in the final bottle and it goes something like this;
The hard work behind the scenes is the real grunt work that no one sees and is hardly glamorous but every bit as important as what happens during vintage and blending. It’s all about barrels – stacks of them (literally). Each barrel has to be tasted, mixed and topped every couple of weeks from the end of vintage until about now. This mixing process helps build texture and body into the wine and gives that palate creaminess and toasted nut complexity that is so important for top-notch Chardonnay. At the start it’s difficult to see any difference at all, but as the year goes on you find yourself catching a tantalising glimpse of the complete wine. So close, but still more work to do!
Blending is the culmination of all our work and it’s make-or-break time for each barrel; will they make the cut or are they out? This is what we’re up to right now (just in case you thought we might be celebrating the Festive Season with a glass of Chardonnay in hand). Throughout November and December we are busy tasting and deciding on that critical final blend. It’s important to assess every barrel as each is a complete wine in itself. However, the sum of the whole is far more important than any individual barrel and that’s what we always consider when we make our selection.
The final countdown is the point at which we realise the flavours we saw in the vineyard all those months ago are indeed still there but they’re even better. For some wines (like Eden Valley Wild Ferment Chardonnay) this will be the end of the journey and they’ll be prepared for bottling early next year. For others (such as the Adelaide Hills FDW[7c] Chardonnay) the blend will be put together and go back to oak for another few months to quietly mature and complex before bottling in the middle of next year. By which time the next vintage will be being feverishly worked on (see “hard work behind the scenes” above). So the winemaking cycle continues.
Now what was that about nothing happening outside of vintage?