I’ve got a lot of wine that’s nearing release, and obviously we’re still in the thick of vintage.
2015 Marsanne – Still resting; I’m probably going to hold it back for a couple of months still. It’ll be ready when it’s ready. I’m honestly only worried that there is a limited quantity of this.
2015 Pinot Noir – It needed time, so I let it sit nearly two years in barrel. Just how I roll. Who cares about rent anyway; the Pinot Noir needed time. It’s deep, dark, structural and meaty, and time in barrel has given it some of that as well as balance.
2016 Pinot Noir – The opposite of 2015: vibrant clarity of fruit, and much lighter in style. I’m a bit worried about the drastic difference between the ’15 and ’16, especially when there is about 8 months difference on their time in barrel; I’m honestly not sure if that’s me trying to show a bit of range as a winemaker and doing something different, or if it’s really just what the 2016 needed. Either way, each decision made sense as it came, and the wine is obscenely good.
The shift between 2015 and 2016 is also a shift between vineyards for the Pinot Noir. Up to 2015 I was using 15-18 year old vines. For 2016 and again in 2017, they’re 45+ years old. There is marked difference in caliber, so there are exciting things to come in the next couple of years.
As far as the 2017, look, all it’s taught me is how incredibly little I know about wine.
It’s a very, very good year for the Yarra Valley. Everything is healthy, and very late ripening. My Pinot Noir is in the winery, I’ve fermented it primarily as four different batches, all with wild yeast and varying amounts of whole bunch. Differing degrees of crushing too; I’m still playing with how gentle you should be with Pinot Noir (answer: very). Basically just seeing how each batch develops; this is something that anyone worth their salt will do. We play with as many different batches as possible, they give us blending components (if something doesn’t make sense in the final blend, it won’t go in) and give us more depth of flavour, as well as letting us trial a bunch of different techniques every year.
A small amount of nutrients for the yeast were added. This is something I learned last year; you need to be very careful with wild yeast ferments and you really have to keep them healthy.
Additionally, they’re oxidised like crazy in the first few days. Oxidise juice, not wine. When you’re oxidising juice, you’re making the wine much more stable and resilient (this gives you more freedom later on), as well as developing a lot of really cool flavours – provided you don’t lose it all to VA. Everything worthwhile seems to be a bit of a double edged sword though anyway.
It’s a bizarre feeling, working with something you view as a masterpiece, and each decision is with careful reverence and the thorough understanding of your own inadequacy to the task. You just hope that reverence and respect are enough for you to coax it to completion.