Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the variety used to make the best red wines of Burgundy as well as being a principle component of Champagne.
It is a very old and variable variety and similarities between it and the wild grapes that grew in Europe before cultivation of the high yielding selections can still be seen.
There is said to be 200 clones (genetic mutations) of Pinot Noir. Some say there is possibly 1000. In France there are 50 certified and 15 significantly propagated.
In Australia, there are around 30 clones available.
At Termeil Creek we chose the MV6 clone.
Wines made from Pinot Noir from hot areas tend to be uninteresting and lacking in colour and flavour.
This is the result of ripening too fast
Cool climate fruit on the other hand that ripens slowly can make wines of distinctive varietal flavour which are highly sort after.
The goal is to make a wine of cherry, red plum colour, with a nose showing primary red/black berry characters followed up by an aroma, after ageing, of hay/earth/mushroom/cedar or so called "forest floor"
The palate should be complex with layers of flavour unfolding with a viscous, velvety mouth feel with low to medium tannins. The finish should be soft and long. The influence of oak should be subtle.
Pinot grows well in most soil types. They tend to do well in heavier clay loams and silty clay loams with good drainage.
In Burgundy the soils are 30-40% clay and predominantly limestone based. There they are planted at high density, 10,000 vines/ha (1m x 1m) to encourage root competition with a resulting intensity of flavour.

At Termeil Creek we have a warm maritime climate, shallow sandy soil over sandstone, and a hot ripening season………all of which says "don’t plant Pinot Noir" a rule which every grape grower in the area has followed in the past.
Good enough reason for me to try.
So I planted 100 vines at a spacing of 1m x 2m.
In an effort to overcome the climatic problems I planted the rows east/west of the cooler southern side of a hill. Not much I could do about the soil type.
Vines are trained to a unilateral cordon and are spur pruned. This will limit their yield.
Last year we had a small amount of fruit which was blended away into a rose’
A lot of people commented on the "strawberry" nose of that wine. To me this was the Pinot component expressing itself.
So this year we had a lot more fruit and are making a varietal Pinot Noir.
Baume level of the juice was 12.5° , pH 3.4 and TA 9g/L all which fall in the required range. Whether flavour and phenolic development have been good we will have to wait and see.
Certainly the ferment smells wonderful.
It is nearly finished and will be drained off, pressed and with pressings added be left to clarify naturally in an effort to maintain as much flavour as possible. We have introduced the slight flavour of French oak with staves added to the ferment.

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