01 May 2011

It's been a long time between drinks, as they say, but our new Pinot Noir is just about ready for release. Our last release, the 2008, caused a sensation and sold out in record time. There was no 2009 under the Squitchy Lane label thanks to bushfires and heat waves. If I remember correctly, the 2008 was last on sale in December 2009 so we have endured eighteen months without our most popular wine.
Making Pinot Noir is an elusive and mysterious thing. Making good Pinot Noir is even more so. I have quite definite views on what's good and what's not in the world of Pinot Noir. Not for me the dark-coloured, over-extracted wines that confuse power with quality. On the other hand, I am not keen on the herbal-influenced wines that make a virtue out of being grown in very cool places where the grapes struggle to ripen properly.
What I do like is elegance. Silkiness is also necessary, as is a good percentage of new oak. It's quite remarkable how good Pinot Noir can integrate new barrels without being dominated by oak flavours. Our winemaking style is, in many ways, quite straightforward. We don't use stalks or whole bunches--instead, we crush very gently so a good proportion of whole berries pass into the fermenter. We then ferment on skins for about seven days and press to tank for overnight settling before racking to barrel after twenty-four hours. Pressings are kept separate. The wine is quite cloudy when it goes to barrel and these lees are an important part of the style. They add a certain body and texture to the finished wine.
And I like low alcohol. This is achieved in the vineyard by getting vines in balance and ripening evenly. Flavours should accumulate quickly so harvest can take place before sugars rise too high. Our 2010 is a shade under 13.0% but shows full ripeness.
I am very happy with this wine--I think it is the best ever under the Squitchy Lane label. 
The colour is bright garnet, not too deep. The bouquet shows plenty of the MV6 clone influence--this clone is probably the most "fruity" and you can see the jubey, plum and berry characters quite clearly. The palate is silky, seductive and long with harmony the key word. It's still young and only just coming around after bottling but I like what I see. Whether it's best enjoyed soon or with a few year's bottle age is a good question--I can't give a definitive answer except to say that I will be enjoying it over the next twelve months. There is so much that is attractive about the wine now that I find it hard to resist.
The last few years have been difficult in the Yarra Valley--2008 was bountiful but often excessively so and some wines could be criticised for lacking true concentration, ripeness and depth, 2009 was the terrifying bushfire and heatwave season where many wineries produced nothing at all and those that did often declassified the wines to a lower quality level, 2010 was benign (thank goodness) and as for 2011, it's the most difficult vintage I have seen in over twenty years of making wine. Not the worst, but the most difficult.
When you sum all that up, a wine such as the 2010 Pinot Noir seems like a gift from the heavens. Whoever it was that said "wine is proof that God wants us to be happy" must have had wines like this in mind.
Keep an eye on the Squitchy Lane website for release details.