2020 Vintage

An extremely long, slow vintage. A bit of an eye opener for most of us in the Yarra. We keep talking about the effects of global warming on faster ripening, and then mother nature throws us this curveball vintage. I saw things I’d never seen before, entire ferments finishing before the next varietal was ready to pick (and my ferments are real slow), I had Sangiovese on vine for ballpark of 10 days without any leaves left on the vine, just cashing in whatever reserves were left.

It’s been weird, it’s been wonderful, it’s taught me a lot.

Cabernet Site, just before harvest.

The “serious” wine for the year is the Cabernet Sauvignon. 50something year old vines, low yields, wild ferment, extended pre and post ferment maceration, and 0% new oak. I made the decision a while back that I didn’t want new oak anywhere near my wines, and I’ve copped a lot of flak about it but not really made something where it was viewed as essential until the Cab. But the idea is essentially that I can do a lot towards better vineyard health and better winemaking practices, but oak is something bought from a catalogue… it’s only going to compete with the beautifully unique elements I’m already playing with. I don’t want new oak anywhere near my wine.

My other wines for 2020 are kind of play things if I’m honest. Trialling ideas, proving concepts, and just a chance to have some fun.

I’ve bought in some Fiano from Heathcote, it’s awesome fruit and worked out really well. I think there’s a really cool weight/phenolics/acid balance. Wild ferment again, small nutrient addition. Didn’t do much, just stayed out of the way.

Hiding from a rainy day, testing the Fiano about 3 weeks into it's 4.5 week ferment.

The Sangiovese is the wild card… it’s a rosato, but not like we really see in Australia. It’s a good bit darker and actually has varietal character. This is really a trial for a few ideas, but primarily the concept of more gentle flavour extraction. I had an epiphany a year or so ago, twice really, once while tasting someone’s epic Pinot Noir, and once while drunk in a bar, that I think flavour and tannin extraction is a lot easier and can be a lot more gentle than I’ve believed in the past. I’m also going down a bit of a rabbit hole with regards to the importance of yeast characters in wine which often come across as these subtle floral and spice elements, and it’s like a parallel importance to the fruit – if we spend all of our time trying to cultivate more healthy ecosystems within vineyards, it seems narrow-minded to focus on the fruit alone, especially when good yeast has so much to offer.

The Sangiovese vines, about a week shortly before harvest.

Pressing the Sangiovese, following 3 days skin contact.

Ferment had just started thinking about happening.

The Rosato will be a barrel ferment, and I'm moving them out into the sun on any moderately sunny day, kind of on the concept of having very slow starts to ferments, then faster ferments than I used to have (once it’s fired up), and then worry about maturation later.

I’m not sure if that makes any sense. Doesn’t matter.

Vintage has been one of the big joys of the start of my year, a much needed thing in 2020. Hopefully some good vino will be born from it.

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aaron@crotherswine.com.au

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