Part 3: How winemakers can influence the style of a wine

Published by Tamara Harrison - 26th Aug 2019

Winemaker Adam Barton from Rabbit & Spaghetti has talked us through some factors in the vineyard that influence the style of various Shiraz wines. Keep on reading to find out how winemakers can infleunce a wines “style” in the winery. 

So, we’ve grown the grapes, they’ve been harvested and finally – finally! –we get that fruit into the winery. Once again, there are myriad decisions we can make to influence the style of the finished Shiraz. Here’s an overview of some of them, which are also key themes to look out for in winemaker’s comments: 

  • Fermenting with wild yeasts can give more complex characters on the nose, while cultured yeast is less susceptible to spoilage and can highlight the fresh fruit characters in the wine. 
  • Gentle handling of the cap (the solids that rise to the surface during ferment) by either plunging by hand or pumping the juice over will extract colour and flavour from the skins, but too much will extract bitter tannins and make the wine taste dried out.
  • Whole bunch ferments (that is, including stalks and whole bunches in the ferment) can produce distinctive aromas like sage, chinotto, and bay, and deliver a very different tannin structure and mouthfeel.
  • Maturing Shiraz in oak barrels is of course a significant determinant of wine style – specifically, the type of oak (French or American), barrel size and how they’re constructed, toast (how heavily the oak staves are heated during cooperage), percentage of new oak in a blend and the length of time spent in oak. 
  • Blending of fruit from different regions is sometimes done to achieve a consistent style of Shiraz across vintages. For example, using more cool-climate fruit in a warm year and more warm-climate fruit in a cool year.

Considering the vineyard factors in my last post and all of the above, you can see my point about regional varietal labelling being a limited way of describing the wine inside a bottle! But if you consider the above ideas as you taste different wines, look for connections between the way the wines are described and the information you can gather about the winemaker’s approach, you’ll be much more likely to identify Shiraz that matches your personal taste. 

And what about the Rabbit & Spaghetti approach to Shiraz? Well, I’ll come to that in my next post – stay tuned!