Newsletter (Jan to July)
January to February 2018 Harvest
From Vine to Bottle
Picking season is always a nail-biting time for vineyard managers and winemakers. Imagine a whole years worth of labour and investments being wiped out by just one week of rain. That's why when we have a year as successful as 2018 its always a jolly place around the Maluna vineyard.
The key factor contributing to the success of the vintage was the lack of heavy rain and hail during the flowering period in November, right up to picking in early January. This meant that majority of fruit bunches remained undamaged and intact. The dryness also decreased the risk of Botrytis Cinerea disease which can destroy entire crops during wet, humid years.
Another contributing factor was the warm weather which allowed the fruit to ripen earlier than usual. Picking started a full ten days earlier than 2017 vintage with all the whites being picked by January and all the reds by February. This is a good thing because it leaves a less time for the fruit to be effected by bad weather. In 2018 we were able to pick grapes from every vineyard block which has only happened a handful of times in Eagles Rest history.
1. Samples from the Lab
In the months leading up to January grape samples are routinely sent to the lab to determine if the fruit is ready to pick. Factors that effect this decision include ripeness, sugar content, flavour and colour. But labwork is only a rough guideline, ultimately the decision is made by the winemaker and the vineyard manager who will be tasting fruit from the vineyard everyday. Timing is everything so once they have given the OK and specified the picking date, plans are quickly set in motion.
2. The Picking Team
Picking is by no means easy business, it takes careful planning and coordination. Each picking team works through the vineyard rows; filling up buckets of fruit and unloading them into crates pulled by tractors. These crates are then quickly loaded onto trucks and rushed to our winemaking team at Agnew's Wines. Minimising the time between the initial picking of the grapes and the start of processing is crucial to ensure maximum quality.
3. Crushing and de-stemming
Once at Agnew's the grapes are thrown into tanks where they are crushed and de-stemmed. The juice that rises to the top is pumped out of the tank and into a fermenter leaving only the skins and stems. These are then placed in a presser which extracts even more juice. While this is also pumped out into a fermenter, its kept separate from the first batch. Winemakers like to be flexible and by keeping these two juices separate they can create two different wines from the same grape. When it comes time for bottling winemakers will blend proportions of these two wines into the final product.
4. Fermentation and Maturation
Fermentation and Maturation processes differ greatly depending on the variety and the quality of the fruit. Shiraz is usually fermented in an open air stainless steel tank and then poured into French Oak barrels to mature for up to 18 months. Semillon is much more delicate and responds poorly to excessive winemaking intervention, requiring temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel. This is in stark contrast to Chardonnay that responds well to winemaking intervention and is often fermented in the actual French Oak barrels themselves and sometimes even left in the sun to help with the process.
5. Bottling and Labelling
Once the wine is ready for bottling its carried by trucks to the Hunter Bottling Company (HBC) who bottle and label the wines. While our 2018 vintage is still wine making process, earlier this year we got to see or 2017 wines being bottled. It was a pretty impressive sight. This machine is capable of completing an entire 2000 bottle run in under 20 minutes!
6. The Finished Product
And here they are! The 2017 Maluna Shiraz, Maluna Chardonnay and Gully Block Semillon. Winemaking is a really challenging process - there are just so many variables to account for, both controllable and uncontrollable. But after a successful vintage like this one, there's nothing better than sharing a few bottles with the staff and looking back on the journey and all the nail-biting times we had along the way. After all, this is why we do what we do, this is why we love it!
July Going Forward
Time to Rinse and Repeat
By this time of the year the process of vine cultivation is now coming full circle. The vines are being pruned back to strip away any excess unneeded growth. Each vine is left with two main stems which will become the platform for fruit growth towards the end of the year.
2017 was an exciting vintage and we're sorry we weren't as engaged with all of you as we should have been. But this year is going to be different. Expect regular updates from the vineyard management staff and winemaker on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our website.