Friday, April 25, 2014

ANZAC Day 2014

Photo: Nick Moir (SMH)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Greetings

Hot Cross Buns on Friday
Malteser Easter Bunnies on Sunday

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Winemaking Bible

I have often been asked via this blog site what book(s) I use to get information on my grape growing and wine making hobby.
First off I have a huge amount of material that was issued as part of my wine growing degree at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Obviously that is not available to everyone.
But there was also a huge compulsory and recommended reading list that came with the course.
From that and from a viticultural viewpoint I suggest:
Viticulture Volume 1 Resources edited by B.G. Coome and P.R. Dry
Viticulture Volume 2 Practices edited by B.G. Coombe and P.R. Dry
Sunlight into Wine by Richard Smart and Mike Robinson
Diseases and Pests edited by P.Nicholas, P. Magarey and M.Wachtel
and for a non Australian but still New World perspective 
General Viticulture by A.J. Winkler, J.A. Cook,W.M. Kliewer, L.A. Lider 
From a wine making point of view there is only one book for me:
Making Good Wine by Bryce Rankine

Dr. Rankine was probably the most prominent wine scientist in Australia but was also well-known internationally.
Sadly, he passed away early in 2013.
A rundown on his distinguished career can be found here.
And of course the internet is a goldmine of information if one has the time to search.
One site that has a great deal of information for the small (or home) winemaker is the Winemaker Magazine.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Was 2014 the Vintage of the Decade?

Our wine region, the Shoalhaven Coast, has a viticultural climate classification of warm maritime.
Without going into a lot of technical detail of how this is established, it generally means warm to hot, humid and wet vintages, with increased rainfall around harvest time.
This raises the problems of diluted juice and fungal diseases.
Along with the Hunter Valley, a few hundred kilometers to the north, we have one of the highest Branas Indices for a wine growing area in Australia.
Grape growers in the region have learned to live with this and most have modified their viticultural practices accordingly.
Grape varieties suitable for the climate are normally grown. Some have even gone as far as planting fungal resistant hybrids (European + American crosses) eg. Chambourcin.

OK, I do have Pinot Noir which is a cool climate variety but only because 'they' said I couldn't grow it. I think the score is about even ie. 5 harvests and 5 'don't bothers' after 10 years. Out of those five harvests we had one outstanding wine, the others, passable.
Trellis design, vine training and pruning for open canopies that allow good air circulation and spray and sunlight penetration are important.
And most employ protective spray rather than curative spray programs.
So the 2013/2014 season (2014 Vintage) started off quite normally. It is fine to have some good rain during the early growing season. But then, from late December through January and into February the rain stayed away. This allowed the 'early' maturing varieties eg, Semillon, Chardonnay, Verdelho, Tempranillo to ripen without the threat of juice dilution and the outbreak of disease eg. botrytis. Sugar levels were high, acid levels were good and flavour components optimal.
March, usually our wettest month, was also dry up until the last week when the heavens opened up and dropped more than 200mm on us over 3 days.
But by then the 'late' maturing varieties eg. Cabernet Sauvignon, were already off the vines and bubbling away in the fermenters.

So? The vintage of the decade?
I think it could well be.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Co Driver's Birthday

The co driver celebrated her birthday this week.
Instead of going out on the town, she wanted a special home cooked meal.
So I spent part of the the day preparing Beef Wellington and Pavlova.
The former is fillet steak topped with a herb and mushroom mix which is wrapped up in puff pastry and baked in the oven.

Pavlova is a meringue based dessert with crisp crust and a light and soft inside usually topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. It was named after the Russian Ballet dancer Anna Pavlova.
Both Australia and New Zealand claim to have created this dessert in the 1920s during the dancer's visit to those countries.
While it is always a good source of argument (together with each country's prowess at rugby, cricket, netball as well as the respective populations' IQ), evidence is that the Kiwis are correct.
These days you can buy the bases already prepared (yuk!) or as a pre mix (just add water) but ours were made from scratch.
The fruit topping was fresh passionfruit, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.

Wine selection was a McWilliams 'Anne' Hunter Valley Semillon 2006 and a very special bottle of Katnook Estate 'Odyssey' Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 which we picked up on our trip through South Australia's Coonawarra wine region in 2010.

All in all a great meal......even if I do say so myself!
Recipes for the many variations of Beef Wellington are here.
The recipe for individual Pavlovas can be found here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Vintage 2014 Comes to an End

We harvested the Cabernet Sauvignon on the 21st March with the help of Stirls.
Picking conditions were hot and humid and got more uncomfortable as the day wore on.
Sugar level was 13.1 deg Baume and pH 3.70
No disease was apparent and the fruit was in top condition.
The grapes were crushed and destemmed and DAP, MLF culture and yeast added together with 0.75g/L H2TA and 10g/L new French oak mini staves.
We celebrated the end of vintage that evening with a nice dinner and two bottles of good wine, Pikes 2012 'The Merle' Clare Valley Riesling and a Tertini 2010 Southern Highlands Pinot Noir which was a gold medal winner at the South Coast Wine Show this year.
Fermentation started in 12 hours.
Cap was punched down every 4-6 hours.

Fermentation finished on the 29th March and the wine was drained and skins pressed a day later.
pH 4.0 so acid adjustment of initially 2g/L was necessary. Subsequent smaller additions will be likely until a pH of 3.6 or a little lower is achieved.
And 50 ppm SO2 was added as antibactericide/antioxidant together with egg white for fining purposes.
The oak chips were retrieved from the marc after pressing and added back into the wine.
So that is that for 2014.
Now just monitoring of the finished wine takes place ie. SO2 levels, level of wood influence, final rackings.
Bottling of the Semillon should be in a few months, the reds towards the end of the year.
So was 2014 the vintage of the decade, weather wise, as everyone in the local wine industry is saying?
Could just be.
Will work on a few figures to confirm that.
Time now for a bit of a rest from vineyard/wine chores for a few months until mid winter when pruning will take place.