Vermentino and Sideburns

11.38am, Friday 4th February, The Barossa

Look at those sideburns - oh, and the grapes, too.

Just a few days ago I was able to grab the winemaker in charge of the Yalumba Vermentino  project  – Sam  “The Sideburns” Wigan –  to go and have a look at  the first  crop vines out at Kalimna on  the Barossa floor that will be earmarked to go into the 2011 wine. Did I lie about those sideys? Sam has a different look each vintage, and I like this one a lot – very Elvis!

Now up until this vintage, most of the fruit for the Yalumba Vermentino has come from Bob & Fay Reichstein’s block up in the Riverland at Renmark. Currently we’re working with them on a trial that evaluates the effect of shoot and bunch thinning on ripening and flavour and aroma development with this variety.

Bear in mind that it’s a warm place to grow grapes, and this particular variety thrives in these conditions. The good news is that by trimming the canopy and bunch thinning, it’s been possible to have the fruit ripen well, but a bit quicker – which means that essentially you can use less water to produce top fruit. That’s excellent news in a water strapped state like South Australia, where we still want to produce wines with a bit of dash about them. And with the Riverland – the whole story is about water and producing wines with freshness.

“Hot nights zap the acid, and wines can look broad,” explains Sam. “With Vermentino,  it holds its acid in the hot weather, and if we can pull stuff that’s not overcropped, then it’s worth all the work that growers put into it, because it will give the region the identity that they’re looking for with fresh and crisp wines.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself Sam. Everybody wins.

So right now, we’re heading into a vintage when, for the first time, we’ll also have Barossa floor Vermentino to work with.  First crop fruit is really still classed as ‘immature’, but at least it will give us an idea of what might be to come. Up at Renmark, the fruit is just going through veraison, and harvest will be three to four weeks from here – depending on what the weather does. And here’s more good news. Sam is going to take us right through Vermentino vintage on the blog, so get used to seeing those sideburns!

Thanks Sam.

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