It has been a rather cool start to the growing season this year. Probably no cooler than normal, if I looked up the records but we just haven't had much warmth to get the vines moving. They are growing, of course, as they must and they look in general good health but there are one or two things that worry us.
The first is flowering in the cool, damp conditions that prevail. Here's a shot of a Pinot Noir bunch and you can see the beginnings of flower formation.
You can also see the brown caps over some of the flowers. If the weather is damp, these caps can become sodden and the emerging flowers are unable to push them off. The result is that no berry forms. This can have a significant effect on yield.
Here's a shot of one of our young olive trees--maybe the same thing is happening here also:
Today, the weather is warm and sunny. This will definitely help the varieties that are yet to begin flowering--the Cabernets and Merlot--and it will certainly assist the others to shrug off the effects of the cooler weather.
Here's a young Cabernet Franc bunch, still in its infancy:
It's on again--the famous Squitchy Lane sausage sizzle. This time, it's our winter celebration--and what better time to tuck into a sizzling sausage, straight from the barbeque, accompanied by a glass of Squitchy Lane wine.
WHEN: 6 JULY 2013
WHERE: SQUITCHY LANE CELLAR DOOR
MEDHURST ROAD, GRUYERE VIC 3770
TIME: 12 noon to 3.00 PM
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to seeing you there.
One of the fastest-growing trends in Australian winemaking these days is the use of stalks in red wine fermentation. All the cool kids are doing it.
Once upon a time,we used to remove all the stems, stalks and non-grape berry material before fermentation. We believed that stalks would only add hard, green, undesirable characters. Well, it turns out we may have been wrong. It's quite common now for winemakers to include a percentage of whole bunches in their fermentations, especially in Pinot Noir and Shiraz. Proponents will say they add a more savoury, scented character to the wine while critics will say they make the wine herbal, green and stalky. This is one thing you have to decide for yourself.
At Squitchy Lane, we have not used stalks or whole bunches in our Pinot Noir fermentations. I have never been happy with the level of maturity of the stalks as I inspect them in the vineyard before harvest. When I see still-green stalks, I have excluded them from the fermentation, reasoning that if the stalks are immature and green then the flavours they add will be similar. Those who have tasted the 2010 for example will know that it is delightfully ripe and shows no hardness or stalky influence. We value silkiness and suppleness above all so are very careful to avoid anything that may compromise these two vitrues. So, no stalks so far in the evolution of Squitchy Lane Pinot Noir.
Enter 2013...after such a warm, dry season (with some cool nights early on), the stems actually started to lignify and turn brown. This was both unusual and exciting and gave me the confidence needed to include some in the Pinot fermentations. For the first time, both the 114 and MV6 batches included about fifteen per cent of whole bunches.
So far, it has worked well. I don't expect we will do it every year but when the conditions are right, the results can be impressive. The 2013 Pinot Noir is going to be one of our best yet.
(The lovely picture above is by Beatrice Haines, from the Hoxton art gallery collection).
Earlier this week, Mike and I had the opportunity to taste a collection of Squitchy Lane wines with Jeremy Oliver, one of Australia's leading wine writers.
The idea was to find as many Squitchy lane wines as we could, digging back into the archives and also pulling out some yet-to-be-released stocks.
Unfortunately, our archives are meagre at best and we do not have an extensive back-catalogue. Nevertheless, we found a few.
I thought it would be interesting to offer my brief tasting comments on the wines and to give some idea of their cellaring potential. I hope you find it useful.
2008--slowly developing but not far off its peak now. Lots of creamy lees characters with the oak subsumed into the aroma and palate. Leaner style that has benefited from bottle age.
2009--from the bushfire year, picked early. Similar structure and flavour development as 2008 and certainly has picked up some extra character with three years in bottle. Should drink well for the next 18-24 months.
2010--the current release, showing some tropical fruit and citrus notes with supporting oak. Medium-bodied, holding its age well but also beginning to show some secondary development--it's now on the way to adulthood, having shed its adolescent immaturity. In my opinion, consuming now and within the next year will give the most satisfaction although it will certainly develop beyond that.
2011--to be released in the next few months. Stylish, restrained and elegant with an attractive citrus and red grapefruit thread running through it. 10% of the wine underwent malo-lactic fermentation and this has added a touch of extra richness on the back palate. Not yet ready and will have a long life.
2012--recently bottled. Showing strong oak influence on the nose with some subdued citrus peeping through (it is common after bottling for the oak to dominate for six months or so. The fruit seems to take a holiday but it does return). The palate is generous and creamy with a more pronounced malo-lactic character. Very good and long-lasting finish. Won't be ready for at least another twelve months and will last until 2020 at least.
2010--showing some development although not as much as one might expect. Has matured into a complex white wine, not recognisably varietal but with richness and depth. Still alive and kicking and a great companion at the dinner table. Drink now.
2011--similar to 2010 but with greater fruit definition and still maturing. Vibrant, fleshy and long--it's a good rejoinder to those who write off the 2011 vintage in the Yarra Valley. Enjoyable to drink now but has the capacity to develop for a few more years.
2012--more identifiably Sauvignon Blanc, racy and crisp. A more linear wine than the previous releases although it still looks very young. It's certainly drinkable now but I feel it will improve and gain more depth with a year or two in bottle. This has plenty of struck-match, flinty character and quite an edgy personality at the moment but its days of youthful rebellion are numbered.
2008--colour still holding. Stalky, briar and earthy aromas, typical Yarra Valley. The palate is medium-bodied and firmly yielding, if that makes sense. More structured than later releases, more tannin and grip across the palate. Ready to drink.
2010--medium depth of colour, not showing any real development. Lifted aromatics--spice, jubes and just a touch of earthy, mushroom, forest floor classicism. Smooth, succulent palate, no hard edges. Lovely to drink now but has some way to go yet. It's simply a great expression of Yarra Valley Pinot Noir.
2011--it's always difficult battling against the popular perception but this wine demonstrates the dangers of a unilateral view. Yes, it was a very difficult season but the cool conditions allowed for a finesse and subtlety that is uncommon in Australia. This wine confounds all expectations and looks more like a village Burgundy than an Aussie Pinot. Savoury, well-endowed, complex, satisfying. Too young to drink now but wait twelve months and we will see a unique wine. It's quite different from the 2010 and the 2012 but perhaps more interesting.
2012--a return to a more typical style. Great colour, powerful aromas of berry fruits and sweet oak. This is a serious wine, possibly the "biggest" Pinot Noir we have made and it needs some time to show its best. Like the 2010, has that lovely silkiness through the palate that is the hallmark of great Pinot Noir.
2007--Lively and fresh, not really going anywhere just yet. Lots of plummy fruit and a back-note of blackcurrant varietal character to keep everything in check. Round, fruity, juicy--the sort of wine to put away for another 2-3 years.
2008--showing the features of the season, perhaps more so than any other wine here--ripe, curranty fruit with a background of minty cool-climate Cabernet. A paradox in many ways but very enjoyable at the same time. Not for the purists, more for the hedonists. Drink now to 2016.
2010--lively colour, pure expression of varietal Cabernet on the nose--blackurrant, leafy spice and sweet tobacco. My personal favourite of all the wines tasted here. Medium body so those who like Barossa or Langhorne Creek may be disappointed but those who like good Bordeaux will recognise the style. Beautiful sweetness through the palate, the addition of 10% Cabernet Franc adding perfume and softness. Best drunk 2015-2018.
2010--like a junior version of the 2010 Cabernet. Classically styled, smooth and elegant. Not ready yet, this wine needs a cool cellar, some patience and foresight. Those who have these attrubutes will be well-rewarded in 2015 and onwards.
2011--more approachable than the 2010 (in fact, we are considering releasing this one before the 2010), juicy, supple and with excellent length--the addition of 7% Shiraz has added depth and texture to the wine. Not quite ready yet but not far off it, this seems like a good bet for the impromptu "let's have a glass of wine with dinner" scenario. Best drunk 2014-2016.
Squitchy Lane wine club members were invited to the cellar door on Sunday to taste the 2013 wines.
These wines have only just finished fermenting, are still cloudy, as you can see in the photo above, and are not in any way finished and ready for drinking. Nevertheless, it is a good time to assess their potential and gauge the quality of the harvest.
I think all present agreed that 2013 was an excellent year, especially for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Most notable was the approachable nature of the wines. They seemed almost ready to drink, even the usually severe Cabernet Sauvignon. I have always maintained that good wines taste good from the very beginning--ugly ducklings don't turn into swans in my experience. So if we are correct in our assessment, then 2013 looks very good indeed.
Some good discussion took place, our vineyard manager gave us his views on the season and then it was time for lunch.
This opportunity seemed to inspire them to discuss the tasting in great detail.
But now back to lunch.....
Or what's left of it......
A stroll through the vineyard, followed by a pruning demonstration from Steve....
and then time for some reflection on the day's events......
Last, just to show that it wasn't all old folk reminiscing about the good old days when you could buy a decent bottle of claret for $1.25.....
We would like to conduct this vintage assessment every year. It is a great chance to show our wine club members what we have in store and also for them to get a better appreciation of the winemaking process. If you would like to take part, please contact us for details of wine club membership.
For all you Pinot Noir fanatics, here's a great opportunity to taste some of the best that the Yarra Valley can produce:
This will be a great tasting, with some gourmet plates to share, hosted by the winemakers. If you have ever wanted to know how and why Yarra Valley Pinot Noir tastes the way it does, here's your chance.
Easter is nearly here, we have harvested all the grapes except for the Cabernets and the cool weather has arrived at last.
Three good reasons to cook up some gourmet sausages at the cellar door on Easter Saturday.
I haven't had time to catch up with our butcher yet but I am sure he will be able to provide something interesting--the duck and hoisin sauce plus the blackeyed beef and maybe a chicken and asparagus. Whatever we decide on will be matched with Squitchy Lane wines and you can be assured of a warm welcome.
We will start cooking about 12 noon and continue until we run out of sausages or till around 3 pm.
We will be conducting a preview tasting of the 2010 Red Square blend--I think it's the best yet (thanks to the wonderful vintage conditions) and maybe one or two other wines yet to be released. Hope to see you there.
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc were all harvested before the remarkable heat wave now engulfing Victoria. This unprecedented weather pattern should end this week and we hope that the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc will start to ripen again. During this hot spell, they have just closed down to conserve energy and the sugar levels have barely moved.
Merlot was harvested on Saturday--the fruit looked great and more importantly, the flavours were fresh and bright with the natural balance of acidity and sugar that I look for in our vineyard.
In the winery, the Pinot is now in barrel. It looks strong and forceful, clearly a product of the warm, dry season. To make sure it didn't go too far down that path, we included about 15% of whole bunches for the first time. The result is pleasing--it's pulled back the flamboyance and added a brightness.
The Chardonnay is still fermenting. As I mentioned before, it's looking like the 2010 at this stage. It will be tight and somewhat inhibited when we bottle it next year but will unfurl with a couple of years ageing.
The Sauvignon Blanc (destined for the Fume Blanc) is also still fermenting--the natural yeasts take their time--but has a good line and clean flavour.
The Merlot is already showing a chocolatey varietal note along with good colour.
In the last post, I suggested that harvest could be finished soon but I have had to revise that opinion due to the weather. The Cabernets will need another two weeks of "normal" weather but should be in by Easter.
Which reminds me--on Easter Saturday, we are having another gourmet sausage sizzle. Put it in your diary.
Last weekend, the Melbourne Wine and Food Festival event of note was the cellar door and providore show at Como House in South Yarra. Accompanied by forty other wineries, Squitchy Lane was there, in glorious sunshine and with a fantastic audience of enthusiastic and aware patrons.
Both Saturday and Sunday started quietly but soon grew into a great tasting session where we were able to show our wines to a great number of people.
Many hadn't tried our wines before and it was a real pleasure to meet some of our old friends again. The overall reception for the wines was tremendous--I soon lost count of the number of Fume Blanc bottles we opened. The Chardonnay was also a highlight, assisted by the weather, while the Pinot Noir continued to impress.
Events like this, while time-consuming and tiring, are a real highlight for us. We love to show our wines and to meet new customers and welcome them to the Squitchy fanclub.