Saturday, April 25, 2015

ANZAC Day 2015

On this day, at dawn, one hundred years ago a combined force of 20,000 Australian and New Zealand infantry began landing on a beach (now known as ANZAC Cove) on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey.
They were part of an allied invasion force under British command charged with the task of securing the Dardanelle Straits to allow a naval force to take Constantinople (Instanbul). This strategy was devised to shorten World War I which was already stalling on fields of Western Europe.
Eight months later, after little ground was gained, this ill planned and implemented campaign concluded with the evacuation of all allied forces.
By then 11,400 ANZACs were dead.

Every year on this date, Australia and New Zealand commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice and served during this action as well as in the two world wars and the wars, conflicts and peace keeping operations that were to follow.
Around the country, in cities, regional towns and small villages dawn services are held and later in the morning the National Service is held at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. 
Veterans' marches also take place.
In Turkey, large groups of Australians and New Zealanders gather at Anzac Cove for the dawn service there.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Wine in a Box is Fifty Years Old

On 20th April 1965, South Australian grape grower Thomas Angove patented his ground-breaking design, a resealable, collapsible plastic bag inside a cardboard box.
In November that year the first one-gallon (4.5L) packs of wine were released to the public.
At the time, most wine in Australia was sold in bottles and the larger fragile glass flagons. The latter exposed any undrunk wine to air causing deterioration.
The cask had a few problems initially with leaks and pouring but improvements were made over the years. This included a new tapping device as the original packaging had required the drinker to cut the corner off the bag and reseal it with a clip.
This packaging design has been used since by winemakers around the world.
Original Angove's cask wine packaging.
Original Angove' s wine cask packaging

But with consumers' wine appreciation becoming increasingly more sophisticated, where is this Australian icon's place today?
Since the heady days of the 1980s when 'Chateau Cardboard' graced so many kitchen benches and was about 50% of the total wine market in Australia, its consumption has dropped steadily. Domestic sales have been falling by around 6 per cent each year to around 33%.
So does that mean it's bad wine? And can it ever be as good as bottled wine? Most wine makers and consumers think of the box and the bottle as two distinct markets so box wine, because of its pricing structure, will always be lower quality. But I have had some very reasonable box wine at times especially in the 2L premium range.

What, then, does the future hold for the old bag-in-a-box?
The  two litre casks are reasonable quality, particularly those from The Winesmiths, Yalumba and DeBortoli.
And DeBortoli, Yalumba and Accolade Wines will launch a range of new products throughout the year to mark the 50th anniversary of the wine cask.
Suffice to say that many of the same benefits of the cask apply today as they did in 1965 when Tom Angove invented it. It's well suited for many social occasions, offers good value and is convenient when a glass or two, and not a whole bottle, is required.
And blown up empty bladders hung on fruit trees make excellent bird scarers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon / Progress

Following on from our post of  26th March, fermentation of the juice took just over a week to complete.
We then transferred the must with the oak staves into a stainless steel tank and sealed it after pH adjustment to 3.60 with tartaric acid.
Post fermentation maceration lasted a week.
We did this to extract as much colour and tannin as possible from the skins.
It also gave the wine the opportunity to go through MLF ie. conversion of the harsher malic acid component by lactic acid bacteria into the softer lactic acid. This process was confirmed with an increase in pH to 3.75

Then the must was drained and pressed with both free run wine and all of the pressings being returned to a stainless steel tank with the oak staves.
50ppm SO2 (bactericide and antioxidant) was added together with egg white to begin the fining process.
The marc (skins, seeds, stalk remnants) that remains in the press was returned to the vineyard rows as soil conditioner.
In a week we shall rack the wine off the fermentation lees.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A New Woodshed

Over our short and not too cold winter we heat the house with a slow combustion stove.
This is fueled by seasoned hardwood (Eucalyptus) either cut from fallen trees on the property or delivered cut and split by our local 'woodman', Laurie.
The older one gets, the more attractive the latter becomes.
It is stored out of the weather in a woodshed beside our 'barn'.
Over the last few years this shed has deteriorated badly with the support posts rotting out causing a distinct 'list to starboard'.
So I decided to demolish it and build a new one with the help of Stirls during one of his visits.
Now I have to say that Stirls and I are DIY disasters looking for somewhere to happen. Describing us as hopeless is being kind. We can relate some stories about our combined and individual efforts that would shock.
Anyway, I drew out a rough design and measured up the timber requirements. I decided to go with treated pine as it is easy to work with and is virtually white ant and rot proof. Neighbour Bob helped transport the supplies from the local hardware store.

Stirls was enthused enough to look up woodshed building on the Internet and came up with a lot of good tips. He is also a good source of tools.
The main requirements were that it would be big enough to hold a couple of deliveries, be high enough to make access easy and be relatively rain proof.
It took a few days to put together and surprisingly we had little trouble in its construction. It is amazingly straight and square. We were able to recycle a few bits from the old shed and use up some left over roofing from the house as cladding.
The old cladding was used as flooring and what remains of the old posts and supports will be cut up for firewood.
Laurie delivered a couple of loads a week later and seemed impressed with our efforts too.
Of course we have to pass the final test from Neighbour Bob who is a perfectionist when it comes to this sort of thing. Mostly he looks at our work and asks "is it finished?"

Friday, April 03, 2015

Easter Greetings

For us it is Hot Crossed Buns on Good Friday and chocolate of any description on Sunday.
The daughter and her man will be visiting for a few days.
And a happy birthday today to the co-driver!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Some 2015 Vintage Weather Data

Below are two weather graphs showing some reasons why vintage 2015 was a little difficult.
Basically there was a lot of rain (well above average) on a regular basis over a long period during December and January.

Compare the above to Vintage 2014 (the so called 'vintage of the decade') where rainfall was well below average for an extended period.