I plan to celebrate special places where climate, soil, and people come together to create amazing produce. The 2018 Shiraz originates from the Bannockburn Estate in the Geelong GI of Victoria. The vineyard sits on pure, crumbly limestone and has been growing strong for over 40 years.
I spent about 4 weeks working harvest with Mac Forbes before joining Matt Holmes at Bannockburn to work on my own wine. These two gentlemen shared with me the energy, light, and warmth that harvest brings each year. A special thank you to these two blokes for letting me see that harvest is something that I will no longer be able to live without.
Geelong is about an hour drive southwest of Melbourne along the Port Phillip Bay. The city is home to a few hundred thousand people, and its Bellarine Peninsula (pronounced peninshula in Australian) is one of three main 'subregions' within Geelong. The end of the Bellarine Peninsula almost touches the Mornington Peninsula as the two form the mouth of Port Philip Bay. In addition to producing great wine, the Bellarine is also quite a beautiful place to visit.
The Surf Coast, just southeast of the city, is another separate area with its own unique climate and character. It benefits from cool air coming in off of the Southern Ocean, and is also home to some of the best beaches in Victoria.
Our place of interest is within the circle, north west of the city. Bannockburn is its own small municipality on the edge of the Moorabool Valley area of the GI. It is quite dry up here, and it is silly to think that one cannot grow a balanced vine without providing some water every now and again.
The Bannockburn Estate is situated in a unique little valley that surrounds a small pond. The dry, dusty winds don't penetrate the vineyards as much, and the limestone soils help keep the pH in a favorable place. That being said, UV intensity of the Australian sun can be tough to manage in such a dry place. It is only the best farmers and vineyard managers that grow good produce out here.
My Shiraz came in right in the sweet spot of 12.6 Baumé. To keep us all on the same page, the degrees Baumé is the same as the potential alcohol percentage if the wine is fermented dry.
The grapes had a pH of 3.52, and a TA of 5.8 One might expect the TA to be a bit higher given the other numbers. The limestone here is key to keeping the pH of the wine low, even if the acidity drops a touch.
I wanted to retain as much freshness in the wine as possible, so 70% of the fruit was de-stemmed, leaving as many whole berries as possible. The rest went on top, intact as whole clusters. The batch was given an acid adjustment of 1.75 g/l and sealed up tight for one week.
In the pursuit of freshness, carbonic maceration can be a great technique when paired with the right grape variety. By putting the whole clusters on top and sealing the fermentation vessel, the carbon dioxide produced by the bottom 70% was trapped, allowing for a very active intracellular fermentation in the whole clusters. The berries were fun to eat too, they sparkle!
No, I didn't chaptalize!! As fermentation kicked on, I would periodically hop in and kick around a bit. Squishing these whole berries added unfermented sugars to the wine so that our native yeasts had something to eat. This extended fermentation really seemed to extract beautiful colors and heady aromas.
After a few walk-abouts in the fermenter, it was time to separate off the free run juice, and take the rest to press. Pressing releases even more sugars that have yet to be consumed, and will re-invigorate the fermentation.
Pressing can be tricky, and the best way to know whether you have pressed hard enough is to taste as you press. This particular batch was exceptional. We pressed pretty hard, 1.8 bars, and we never got those bitter, ugly tannins. Only fine, fruity tannins ever came out of the press. A sign of an exciting vintage for sure!
The 1.88 tons of Shiraz yielded 1225 liters of wine. So, this is a picture of the most beautiful barrel in the world. Its name is Fat Man, and he's a 7 year-old 1200L cask coopered by Vicard, the largest single-site cooperage in France.
The other 25 liters, that's for topping up. The angels have to drink too!
Note that aside from the acid added earlier, nothing has been added to the wine thus far. After malolactic fermentation subsided, we are presented with an option - sulfur! There was no way that I was going to leave my investment and hard work exposed to potentially oxidizing and spoiling. Adding sulfur early, and accounting for loss during aging and bottling is the most recommended path. I could have waited until closer to bottling, but integration and balance is key.
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