2015 Marsanne

It's the upcoming release, and has been for... well, a long time now. This is a wine that has been very demanding.

It was the first barrel ferment I'd ever done, and a very scary one at that. It was painstakingly slow, taking about 7 months. For reference, it should take a week or two.

It's been a massive learning experience for me, from vine to barrel, and I haven't even got it in bottle yet.

Vintage was scary as hell. Always is; I've learned to accept that I just wont get any sleep for a month or two before it's time to pick.

This Marsanne vineyard is always a little extreme though. For reference, here's what the fruit looked like:

There's a little botrytis developing, essentially mold. Which is great and vineyards that develop it this reliably are hugely prized, but it does leave the grapes really vulnerable. And we're talking Marsanne here that I can't really pick below about 13.5 baume if I want it's flavours to have developed properly. That means leaving it on the vine, and praying.

Once it got into the winery, well, I had some really high quality old barrels fall into my lap and couldn't pass up the opportunity to do my first ever barrel ferments. That was scary.

You can't really see what's going on inside the barrel, and for a lot of it's life you don't really want to be opening it up too often.

In hindsight, I probably should have left the barrels outside during the warmer days and let them absorb a little heat. As it was, well, the wild yeast for whatever reason was extremely slow and didn't generate much heat, and those couple of months of not sleeping had another 7 months tacked onto the end of them. Honestly, it was in a very vulnerable state for a very long time and it should have spoiled, I don't have a reason for why it didn't.

It just limped along to the finish line, keeping it's fruit characters and gaining an awesome savoury nature. Provided it stays healthy, the slower everything moves in the vineyard and winery, the more depth of character it'll develop. It's better than previous vintages, by a long shot. I think.

Normally I'd have bottled it late last year, but it wasn't ready, so I let it sit. That's honestly about as technical as I can get, I tasted it and it wanted time. So it gets time. It had really good fruit that there didn't look to be any risk of losing, and it seemed to be responding really well to the mostly old oak.

It's a little hard to say how it'll end up. There's quite a few small batches to blend together, which I'll do in a couple of months. They all look quite different, and I'm inclined to just blend them all in together and let the wine be what it is, which is probably the best it can be. We'll see I guess. The other question is how long before release after I bottle it (bottling will likely be late September), and I have no idea. However long it needs to rest, it'll rest. When it's ready, I'll release it.

I guess a big driving factor behind the 2015 was that I've gradually been less fearful in winemaking each year - less inclined to keep the wine clean and healthy, and more willing to expose it to the elements a bit, and to let it run it's natural course without trying to direct it.

It certainly isn't the wine I aimed to make, but it's far and away the best Marsanne I've ever made.

A big shout out of thanks on this one to Ian Maclean from Yarra Yarra winery; he gave me some key advice in a crucial vintage, most of which amounted to growing a backbone. I think that's a really important part of wine - you can't act on fear. Taste it, and make whatever decision you have to.

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