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Vintage 2015 is well under way, with the first grapes brought into the winery in the last week of February. It’s always so satisfying to reach the pointy end of a hard-fought battle with Mother Nature and to celebrate the fruit of our labour coming to life in the vineyard.
Our vintage crew for is headed by Best’s winemaker Justin Purser, with assistant winemaker Simon, cellar hands Andy and Hadyn, and lab technician Leanne. Joe Warren from Brisbane, who is a recent wine graduate with a culinary background, joins us for vintage, as well as sommelier Raphael from Rockpool 1989 in Sydney.
The picking season kicked off slightly earlier this year due to the ideal ripening weather (warmish days and cool nights) and 10cm of rain in January, which brought grape maturity forward. Despite lower yields due to frost and a cold spring in 2013, which is when the primordial buds that determine fruitfulness for this season were formed, the grapes are full of flavour.
Our first varieties to be picked were Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling. The flavours and aromas are fantastically intense but the yields are low. So the fruit is great but we would like more of it!
Andy, our basket press guru, was surprised to learn that we need to push our Riesling grapes through an open press traditionally reserved for red grapes. What are these grapes like? Think plump, sticky fruit that explodes like gumnuts in a bushfire.
Speaking of blazes, we had our own scare earlier this year when a fire raged through grasslands just south of Best’s property. Thankfully the winds kept it away but one of our fantastic Shiraz growers was not so lucky. Devastatingly, their entire crop was wiped out, so sadly their hard work has gone to waste and we miss out on their terrific fruit for the 2015 vintage. Such is the occasional severity of Mother Nature!
On a positive note, the acids are nicely high this year, which can be seen in the grapes retaining all their acid and flavour at harvest – a sure sign of a good season ahead. After battling super warm weather conditions in past vintages, last year we invested in an insulated container that we hook up to an air-conditioning unit. It's perfect for storing grapes before processing and fermenting chardonnay barrels.
After handpicking Pinot Noir grapes a few days ago, we stored them in this insulated container. The next day I walked in to the winery and was happily punched in the face by an intense perfume of violets and musky cherries. What a way to start the day! Now the goal is to capture all those amazing characteristics in the bottle. Inspiring stuff.
Next week, the remaining Riesling and most of the Pinot Noir will be harvested and maybe even some Shiraz. Wish us luck!