Monthly Archives: March 2011

Pewsey Contours coming in

9.36am, Thursday 31st March, Yalumba Weighbridge, Angaston, Eden Valley, The Barossa

Vintage Festival must be close.

On the way in this morning, I saw the first scarecrows of the season in Angaston – which means it’s not long at all until Vintage Festival (April 23rd – May 1st) There’s a top scarecrow competition each festival, folks get really creative – a couple of years ago there was even a row boat chock full of scarecrows in the main street of Tanunda.

Now crazy busy is about the best label for the weighbridge and grape lab these days.

Elaine at the sample crusher

The weather continues to hold, which means there’s a lot of tired but very smiley faces around the Barossa, as they take the grapes off whilst the sun shines. But that means stacks of individual vineyard grape samples to plough through every day, so that the winemakers and grapegrowers can keep planning and harvesting ongoing. There’s a definite undercurrent of urgency around the Valley to get whatever is ripe off – as there’s no guarantee how long the weather will hold. Last night and this morning we’ve got Cabernet Sauvignon from both ends of the Barossa floor in – Lyndoch and Light Pass – and some more Eden Valley Chardonnay starting to come off. Here’s Elaine running the sample crusher at the weighbridge – because we take pretty large samples as they give you a much more accurate picture of what’s going on out in the vineyard.

Yesterday afternoon the Riesling from the Pewsey Vale Contours block was handpicked, and there was a bit of mould around the fruit on some of the top rows, so any bunch that wasn’t 100% sound was dropped on the ground. We lost a bit of volume, but that’s no drama whatsoever, as the fruit that came in looked really good, tasted limey and zippy fresh. So whatever ends up in the bottle under the Contours label will go well. Here are three pictures to show how that all worked.

First, here’s a bin on the load – all handpicked fruit from the Contours terraces at Pewsey Vale.

The Contours load

Second, here’s a closer look at the form of the individual bunches.

A closer look at the bunches

Third is a bit of a closeup showing the characteristic ‘freckles’ – called lenticels – that are on all riesling bunches.

The lenticels

Just for interest – there’s still a lot of Shiraz hanging on in nice shape that should show up quite well. This is from the family’s own Old Triangle vineyard directly opposite the Yalumba winery, 90 year old vines, and the fruit out in the wind – clean and dry – and travelling well.

The old Triangle block ShirazNow for this morning. We’re trying to keep everything as separate as possible ferment wise, so that any outstanding parcels can be kept that way – just gives you more to work with down the track. Here’s the lineup of today’s ferments – the winemakers look at everything all the time

The lineup

And I pulled one of the Shiraz ferments from the Moppa area north of Nuriootpa out because it gives you an idea of how good the colours are already. Actually – Kev Glastonbury has got something a bit special here – and I’ll be following it through to see how it finishes ferment.

This Shiraz ferment is a bit special.

Cabernet coming in

2.21pm, Tuesday 29th March, Yalumba Weighbridge and Grape Lab, Angaston, Eden Valley, The Barossa

Keep an eye out for this juice

Coming back from lunch, I ducked back in to the weighbridge to have a look at the juice sample from the Grope Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon that’s just arrived. I know this juice looks pretty ordinary right now as a load sample in the ice cream container, but it’s always been magic fruit, and the next time you see it – it may very well be with a Signature label, as this is where traditionally that block usually ends up.

Cabernet by the bunch

Cabernet Sauvignon having the looser bunches and a tough skin has fared a lot better than other varieties with respect to catching mould and mildew this year – here’s an example of Cabernet from the valley floor that’s just come in as part of a vineyard maturity sample.


There’s good mould … and there’s bad mould

9.15am, Tuesday 29th March, Yalumba Weighbridge and Grape Lab, Angaston, Eden Valley, The Barossa
I’ve been lurking around the weighbridge most mornings and afternoons for the past week because this is the best spot to catch up with what’s coming and going grape wise to Yalumba – plus what’s going on around the Barossa. The growers and truck drivers have an extremely good ‘bush telegraph’, and there’s always cartons of fresh fruit being dropped off by the various growers with orchards as well as grapes. I had my first pear/apple cross the other day – really nice. Oh yes – there’s also the giant jar of jelly beans as well. The gals running the grape sampling this year – Linda, Ninien & Sue – have been flat out over the last 4 or 5 days, so I even delivered the biggest Kit Kat bar ever seen in a supermarket – because they definitely needed a break!

Any rate, the weather has come good over the last five days – no rain, lots of wind, and total sunshine the last two – and it will even make 27 degrees today! This has helped out in the vineyards enormously, and the whole Valley floor is a hive of activity – grapes being picked left right and centre. We’ve been taking in a lot of small lots of Shiraz between 4 – 10 ton at a time from all corners of the Barossa floor, as well as some more parcels of Riesling from Pewsey Vale, a couple of loads of Sangiovese for Andy La Nauze’s Rosé, and the first of the Chardonnay from Heggies for Peter Gambetta.

The good grapes: clean as a whistle, hand picked Chardonnay

Here’s a picture of one of the top bins on that Heggies load from last night – hand picked and clean as a whistle, going right on 11 Baume for ripeness.

Bad grapes: we had to really search to find these

Next picture – here are a couple of Chardonnay bunches ruined by the nasty mould that everyone is concerned about this year – but we really had to search to find them – thank goodness! As you can see, once you’ve got fruit in this condition, it is totally useless for winemaking. That’s why way back from October, we were right on top of our sulphur spray program, because it pays off big time come vintage. You’ve still got every chance of doing something nice with your fruit.

Bear in mind that there is one good mould that we do like to get – ‘Noble Rot’ or Botrytis cinerea. This is the mould that – late in the season – affects super ripe fruit, and it’s where the mould effectively grows its ‘roots’ or mycelium – into the berry without splitting it. Then, it siphons off the water in the berry, effectively concentrating the sugar and flavour, keeping all intact – and you get this luscious deesert wine as a result. Honey citrus if it’s Riesling, or honey apricot if it’s Viognier.

Riesling – on the vine and in the glass

10.38am, Friday 25th March, Yalumba Clocktower, Eden Valley, The Barossa
We looked after some trade folks from Ireland and England yesterday, and the weather cooperated nicely by letting us do a Riesling tasting up at Pewsey Vale yesterday afternoon. Several parcels of fruit have already been harvested from the vineyard this week, with really nice zippy natural acids and good solid lime and lemon flavours. So it was great to have the opportunity to show these folks – all first-time visitors to The Barossa – the fruit still on the vine that’s about to come off … in good sound shape.

Camilla, Phillip, Colm, and Gavin

We tried bunches in various parts of the vineyard and found one section of the older vines where the flavour intensities were really jumping – and then set up some glasses to compare the 2010 Pewsey Riesling and 2005 Pewsey Contours (from the terraced north east corner of the vineyard that gives us fruit quite suited to graceful ageing) right there in the middle of it all. Here’s evidence that the sun did actually come out yesterday. From left to right : Camilla (from Wine Australia in London), Phillip (the man in charge at Amps Fine Wines – in England, north of London at Oundle, more or less toward Birmingham), Colm (Sommelier at Ballymaloe House with the fab cookery school and wine weekends, near Cork, in Ireland), and Gavin (man in charge at the Ely Wine bar, right in the heart of downtown Dublin, also Ireland!).

Often we’ll have groups like this come through on very hectic ‘pass the parcel’ style tours, where there’s a lot of ground to cover in not a lot of time – so we made sure we showed the folks things that they may not have been aware of – like illustrating variation within a single vineyard, not forgetting that Pewsey Vale itself is unique, being originally planted in 1861.

We also spent time in the cooperage with Shaun and Craig (our coopers – lovely lean blokes banging away in blue singlets, turning out brand new hogsheads and octaves for this year’s vintage) where the lads bent up a barrel for the group. Again – something a bit different that the folks hadn’t seen before.

And we finished off with dinner at Vintners Bar & Grill, where amongst other things, we dug out a bottle of the 1996 Signature to compare to the 2006 vintage Signature, which is about to be released in both England and Ireland. A lot of folks from overseas have never seen an Australian dry red of 10 years of age – let alone older – so it’s nice to be able to show how well this Cabernet Shiraz style can age over an extended period of time. The 1996 looked lovely – I know that’s not a proper red wine descriptor, but it works. It’s still got licorice and berries up front and is cool through the palate – settled down and velvety, and starting to show a bit of that spice and tobacco that comes with age – but no heat, no aggression, no tar and char.

Like I said … lovely.

The 2006 is going to be a star as well – and that’s not us saying it. That’s our overseas trade folks on the night. It will be a treat to work with the 2006 Signature through May, June and August when we take it on the Rare & Fine roadshow around Australia – then later in September when we trek over to Ireland and England in September.

Vintners scallops

Oh by the way – I’ve not ever put any of the Vintner’s food in my blog – major oversight – so seeing as we started with the Jansz NV Rose – I thought the scallops would go well – here you go – sauteed and sat on steamed broccolini with a dried shrimp and pork relish.

So after visiting Clare on Wednesday and The Barossa yesterday, the crew are heading south today for Adelaide and the McLaren Vale – and will go home now with full information tanks on our part of the winegrowing world. Down the track I have no doubt we’ll catch up with Camilla, Phillip, Colm and Gavin on their home turf – which will be tops. See ya when the mud dries! (Actually, around here right now, that will be a while!)

Beefcake Brothers – and a Lady – Tackle That Steak

11.53am, Thursday 24th March, Yalumba Clocktower, Eden Valley, The Barossa
Watch out! For the first time in a couple of days, the sun just came out from behind the clouds! This is good, as the forecast is for a clear weekend, and some of that fruit out there will be able to come off. All the hand picking for this morning was postponed – except for some of Pete Gambetta’s Chardonnay up at Heggies.

But I want to share something special with you from last night’s adventure out with the sales folk doing the ‘mini vintage’ here at the winery.

Before ...

We did head for the Tanunda Club for dinner, and we did compete in the hotly contested Trivia Competition! Now the true story is that we didn’t even come equal third; however, there was a record of another kind definitely set by one of our lot. The Tanunda Club has a fantastic reputation for their steaks, and the king of the hill is the dry aged 600g T Bone. The Beefcake Brothers – Frosty and Steele – both dived in for that steak – rare – no one was surprised. But our lass from Christchurch, Ju Mannering, would weigh in at 90 pounds wringing wet, and she dived in with the Beefcake Brothers to have a go as well. I took a ‘before’ and ‘after’ shot, and as you can see, Ju has tackled the thing with surgical precision! She’s most probably the slightest lass ever to polish off that monster! After everything that she’s gone through with the double header earthquakes as our gal on the ground looking after Yalumba in the city of Christchurch … the least we could do was buy her a decent dinner!

... and after!

In all honesty, we asked Ju what the whole thing was like during this last disastrous shake, and she said that she was out driving the main road having just picked up samples at the warehouse, and it felt as though she got several flat tyres at once – like driving on jelly! It wasn’t until she pulled over that she saw the light poles swinging and the road still moving of its own accord that she realised it was another quake. But it’s how things are now that are really difficult. Everything logistically is hard. The centre of town – where we have so many customers – is in a lockdown situation and will probably be that way for at least a year. Demolition is the growth industry everywhere. To get anywhere by road is completely congested by damage and the repairing roadworks, and the city seems to still be living on nerves with the threat of aftershocks. Confidence has taken a massive knock, and things like the Rugby World Cup matches in August and September, which would have seen the town packed and partying, have had to be rescheduled to Auckland because the ground and the hotels are wrecked. So it will be a long tough road for Christchurch and their folks, but we’ll be doing whatever we can along the way … starting with feeding our sales folk well. An army marches on it’s stomach!

Have to go as we have a group of trade folk from Ireland and England coming through, so I’ll see you tomorrow.

Mini-vintage workers from all over

3.28pm, Wednesday 23rd March, Yalumba Clocktower, Eden Valley, The Barossa
OK folks, it’s more like the middle of May outside instead of March! What happened to those sets of four or five consecutive days of 35 degrees or more that used to happen in March? It’s been windy and raining since 5am this morning, so it’s not surprising that there’s been a lot of grinding teeth and rolling eyes from winemakers and grapegrowers alike when it comes to the “how’s vintage going” question. It’s been a long long time since we’ve had a vintage with this many regular ‘rain events’ through it – possibly not since 1974.

I guess in the Barossa we’re lucky, and we’re used to pretty even weather, and either good or great vintages being the rule over the last 40 odd years. Then one like this one bobs up! But do not despair – it will end up being a winemaker’s year. There will be a certain amount of OK or ordinary fruit, there will be some vineyards that didn’t get enough attention where the fruit will suffer the effects of mildew, and then there will be the cluey winemakers and growers. They’re the ones who’ve done everything possible to get it right. They’ve stayed on top of the sulphur and copper sprays during the early ups and downs of the season, and they’re the ones who will ‘bank’ some earlier picked parcels of fruit that have good flavours but maybe not the big mid palates – and they’ll show nerves of steel and ‘tough it out’ by leaving other parcels that they’ll pick later – with the big mid palates and flavours – hoping that the weather will come to the party and help out. The combination of the two will make some really solid wines and all will be well.

And there will be the really good winemakers who will make some parcels of great wines, and pull them like rabbits out of the hat down the track. And right now, we’re right in the middle of it all!

Linda and Ninian and Valley Floor Shiraz

I went down to the grape lab yesterday afternoon to catch up on what is going on with vintage, and here’s Linda and Ninian taking a load sample of some Shiraz from the Valley floor, over toward Angaston. The juice had some nice flavours, some decent colour, and was clean as a whistle. That has gone through the crusher and is in our red winemaker Kev Glastonbury’s ‘bank’.

I asked him today how the Shiraz on the Valley floor was travelling in general, and he reckons the juice is tasting about 1 to 1 1/2 baume sweeter than it is, so showing some nice aromatic fruit characters with some long tannins even if they don’t have a heap of oomph in the middle palate. He is one of the folks who are leaving parcels of fruit on the vine to tough it out and hang on … and with any luck these will contribute the fruit weight and palate down the track. But it’s all a bit in the lap of the weather gods right now. The good news is that the rest of the week looks like drying out, with a warmer drier week to follow. Kev’s got some Cabernet and Grenache coming off next week, so that should have a bit of an opportunity to go well. If it clears up overnight, I’ll be going out tomorrow morning to see one of the prime blocks of Valley floor old vine Shiraz hand harvested, and that should give us a nice building block to work with – I’ll let you know.

And I got a very pleasant surprise Monday afternoon when I ran into a group of our sales folk that I’ve worked with around Australia and New Zealand – they’re here to do the in house ‘mini vintage experience’ program. This is where they get to be part of what happens during vintage in both the vineyards and the winery – actually getting their hands dirty and working on different batches of fruit. They’re up at Pewsey Vale vineyard with Louisa Rose as we speak, as they start to harvest the first Riesling from that vineyard. There’s Frosty from the Byron Bay and Northern NSW Rivers area, Steele from Brisbane and Southeastern QLD – including Toowoomba, young Ryan from Melbourne, and Ju from Christchurch – thrilled to bits that she was able to get across to home base here for a while. The good news is that they have the night off tonight and will be competing at the local Trivia Night at the Tanunda Club! Big night out and brain box bragging rights up for grabs here, and I’ll be joining their team to see if we can knock the local champions off. I’ll let you know tomorrow how we go.

Hi Honey – I’m Home!

2.31pm, Monday 21st March, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Eden Valley
Hi Folks – Ferrari here – I’m back at work and the proud owner of a brand new right knee. That’s why I’ve been away for 6 weeks – but thanks to the weather it doesn’t look like I’ve missed much as far as vintage is concerned! It’s been a very sobering time with all the disaster news dominating the TV, and you can’t help but feel lucky to be able to go local Barossa for a bit and just catch up with what Vintage 2011 is doing. I’ll be the one trundling around the winery tomorrow morning annoying the winemakers to see where things are at with the grapes – and I’ll be back on the air from now on.

And don’t forget … it’s only another 5 weeks until the Barossa Vintage Festival! And only days until the new Australian Rules Football season starts. Go the Saints! Red, white and black forever!