Vintage 2010 Wrap Up

Vintage at Tallis Wine is slowly coming to an end. Our Cabernet Sauvignon was picked last Thursday, and has been busily fermenting in one of our open fermenters. The colour is looking spectacular and the concentration of flavours is excellent. We will be pressing the wine this week and sending it off to barrel. Cabernet Sauvignon has a very small berry with a thick skin. The high ratio of skin and seed to pulp generally results in a wine with high tannin content, therefore it is essential that the grapes are ripe at harvest, particularly the seeds, to ensure the tannins are not harsh and green. Pyrazine is a compound present in all cabernet sauvignon grapes and contributes to the herbaceous or green capsicum characters for which cabernet is known. Humans are extremely sensitive to pyrazine in minute quantities, so even the tiny amounts found in under-ripe grapes will make the wine appear green. Sunlight breaks down pyrazines so we are extremely careful to ensure our grapes are fully ripe before harvest to be confident that the influence of the pyrazines is beneficial and that the ever present tannins are ripe.

Tallis Wine. Crushing, destemming and fermenting the grapes. March 2010

Tallis winemaker plunges the ferment

Adding the yeast to create the Tallis wine ferment

Monday 15th March

Wild and woolly would be the best way to describe the weather we have had in our neck of the woods in the past week. However, despite being a mere 30km from Shepparton, which was quite simply ravaged by wind and hail storms, in Dookie we barely noticed the leaves swaying on the vines. Rain .... yes, lots of it ..... definitely, but not an ounce of damage anywhere. The greatest impact of the weather has been to slow down the ripening of our cabernet grapes.

We have had a week of days in the low 20's and nights around 10 degrees, and this has added an extra week or two onto our cabernets ripening. It's not a big deal though. We should see good flavour development and good acid retention. It has also given us oodles of time to finish fermenting our other reds and send them off to barrel.

Our barrels are selected based on what oak influence we want to achieve in each wine. For example, sangiovese is a grape variety that suits subtle oak handling so we never use new barrels for our sangiovese and always French. French oak has a tighter grain than American oak so the rate of uptake of oak characters is much slower. Our shiraz viognier also receives subtle oak handling as our preference is for fruit definition rather than oaky characters.

Both the merlot and straight shiraz have a powerful punch of berry fruit flavour which can handle the vanilla, chocolatey impact of new and American oak. To achieve complexity and a range of flavours we mix up the use of new and old, and French and American oak so we achieve a variety in the barrel components we use in our blends.

Stay in touch for news of our cabernet picking and the final words on vintage 2010.

Monday 1st March

It has been a huge week at Tallis Wine as vintage is in full swing and the winery is a hive of activity. From what we have experienced and seen so far, the 2010 vintage should produce some excellent wines. The colours we are seeing in our red ferments are outstanding, and the cool nights and mild day temperatures are allowing slower ripening. This means a slower rate of accumulation of grape sugars which gives the opportunity for a lengthened period of flavour development. Cool to mild temperatures also assist with grape acid retention which should make all the wine lovers with a penchant for acidity in their wines very happy.

Our shiraz viognier ferment was pressed on saturday and is now virtually dry, which means nearly all the grape sugars have been converted to alcohol. The wine is currently settling and will be racked off to barrel sometime this week. Aside from aroma and flavour influences, the impact of the viognier on the shiraz colour is amazing. The wine has a certain vibrancy in its colour which is very appealing.

Our merlot ferment is ticking along nicely. We have been maintaining a fermentation temperature of around 25 degrees to maximise the retention of primary fruit characters and to lengthen the fermentation period. We feel this maximises the aroma and flavour characters derived from the fermentation process, thereby adding to the complexity of the wine. The baume is currently sitting around 4 Be so we will put the ferment through the press in the next day or so. This will separate the skins from the fermenting juice before the fermentation finishes, so CO2, a normal byproduct of fermentation, will be present to protect the wine from oxidation during the pressing process.

Our sangiovese was hand picked on Friday morning and that ferment is also brewing away happily. The baume is sitting around 4 Be so we will most likely press this ferment within the next couple of days. We are currently hand plunging this wine a minimum of 5 times each day and the colour extraction has been excellent.

Our viognier ferment has cold settled and been racked off grape solids into tank. The juice was allowed to warm up to 18 degrees then innoculated with yeast. We are maintaining cool temperatures around 15 degrees for this white ferment to retain freshness in the fruit characters. The baume is sitting at 13.5 Be so it has quite a way to go yet.

This morning we picked our next parcel of shiraz grapes, and have sinced crushed the grapes and sent them to a fermenting tank. We have analysed the must for baume and acidity and fired up the yeast to get the fermentation underway. Tomorrow morning we hand pick a very small parcel of shiraz grapes from which we intend to make something very special. Stay tuned.

Tuesday 23rd February

Early this morning we started picking our viognier and merlot with unseasonably cool temperatures creating ideal harvesting conditions. The viognier went straight through the crusher and press and is now cold settling prior to fermentation, which is normal practice for white wines. The merlot has also been crushed and innoculated with yeast, so those lovely yeast cells should soon start converting the sticky merlot juice into a lush berry cherry flavoured wine.

Monday 22nd February

We officially started vintage this morning with our picking team meeting in the vineyard at 6.30am. We hand-picked 3 bins of shiraz grapes for our shiraz viognier blend, with the viognier to be picked tomorrow to allow the shiraz and viognier to co-ferment. The shiraz grapes were plump and flavoursome so we are anticipating they will produce an excellent drop. The shiraz has been crushed and innoculated with yeast so the ferment will kick off in the next day.

Tuesday 16th February

Richard and I spent the morning in the vineyard today looking at our Shiraz, Viognier, Merlot and Sangiovese grapes. Juice extraction from sample bunches indicated that our sugar levels are slowly creeping up, and the corresponding flavours are developing well. With this weeks’ forecasted temperatures expected to reach the high 30’s we envisage we will reach our required sugar and flavour parameters over the next few days and will commence vintage early next week. Shiraz and Viognier achieve ripeness around the same time, so we will harvest these grapes simultaneously, which is ideal for our Silent Showman Shiraz Viognier co-fermentation. We plan to hand pick the majority of our grapes this vintage to ensure the grapes selected are high quality and treated with a tender touch.

The Merlot won’t be far behind the Shiraz and Viognier so we may be harvesting the Merlot next week or early the following week also. Fortunately the Sangiovese and Cabernet is further behind so we will be able to space out our ferments comfortably. Check back in with us again early next week for an update on how our vintage kicked off.

Tuesday 2nd Febuary 2010

We spend a lot of time in the vineyard this time of year monitoring the condition of our grapes as they complete the ripening process. Starting the winemaking process with the highest quality raw material, ie. grapes, provides us with the greatest potential to produce a superb wine.

Grapes generally don’t ripen uniformly across the vineyard due to the micro-climate within the vineyard, their aspect and a number of other variables. Therefore, to obtain a good representation of the degree of ripeness of the grapes at they approach harvest we use a sampling method where grape bunches are selected on a random basis from each block. The sample bunches are crushed by hand, and the juice analysed for sugar and acidity. We also walk through the vineyard monitoring berry size and ripeness, and sample berries for flavour, and ripeness of the seeds and skins. We determine the readiness of grapes using a combination of the information we obtain from lab analysis and tasting of berries in the vineyard.

Assessment of some of our earliest ripening varieties, shiraz and viognier indicate that our grape sugars are starting to creep up, with the highest being around 11 Baume. Assuming our climatic conditions remain constant we should be ready to begin harvest in approximately 2 weeks. Fortunately this seasons growing conditions have been much more beneficial than the 2009 vintage. We have had quite a few warm days and the odd scorcher, but nothing comparable to last year. Our grapes are looking sound, developing a good flavour profile and the cool nights we have been experiencing are maintaining good levels of natural acidity.