Wine stuff I love: The how, the what and the why!
Published by Stuart Robinson - 2nd Aug 2016
How grapes shed their collective skins and transform, alchemy-like, into the nectar that has enthralled people, societies, and cultures for thousands of years is, to me, absolutely extraordinary. Amazing. Even magical.
The wonder of the fermentation process that turns juice into wine, in just a matter of days, fired my early 20’s imagination and kick-started my journey of discovery inspiring me to continually question the ‘how’, the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of modern-day winemaking.
I love bailing up winemakers to quiz them on things like: ‘how did you get that struck-match aroma in your Tassie chardonnay’ and ‘what size French oak barrel did you use for your Yarra Pinot’ and, ‘why did you plant your grapevines in Great Southern?’. These sort of questions and countless others are in the whole wine scheme of things crucial.
The answers I get are often surprising, always illuminating, and most go a long way to explain why something that tastes so brilliant and unique, tastes as brilliant and unique as it does. The myriad decisions a winegrower makes either after years of experience and painstaking preparation or in a split second during the hurly-burly of harvest directly influences the distinctive wine that ends up in the bottle.
It all comes down to the decisions made. Big decisions around the how, the what and the why.
So, back to one of my favourite winemaker questions that I mentioned before: ‘why were the vines planted there and not, say, over there?’ What characteristics does that special chunk of earth, with its particular pattern of rain, and its individual aspect to the sunshine, bring to that grapevine that some other place just doesn’t?
A winemaker friend of mine nailed it the other day when unprompted, he started talking about the attributes of his own special plot of land.
He simply said: “Dirt matters. Every type of dirt gives individual characters and flavours into each grape, into each wine.”
There’s always a brilliant reason why a vineyard is planted exactly where it is. The wine’s deliciousness is directly due to where the grapes were grown. The wines, as a result, show a sense of place, a provenance, what some people refer to as ‘terroir’. Ask any winemaker at any cellar door why their fruit is unique, and they’ll happily and honestly tell you the quality and flavour benefits of their own region for their different varietals grown.
I love discovering and exploring different wine regions to learn the secrets that they impart, to see the reason they exist, to see what the initial growers saw way back when or even just a few years ago.
One region I’m really intrigued with is Great Southern in Western Australia. As the name suggests the area is, well, big, and way down south. This wine-growing region is Australia’s largest, one of its most diverse, one of its most rugged and isolated and is directly influenced by the powerful Southern Ocean. Everything about the region has a sense of greatness and magnitude.
It comprises 5 subregions: Denmark, Porongurups, Frankland River, Albany, and Mt Barker.
It’s actually quite similar to Margaret River to the north, just a bit cooler and a bit drier, grows a similar array of varietals and just like Margaret River was identified as a potential premium wine-growing region because of its various similarities to Bordeaux. With its warm days, cooling afternoon breezes, well-drained soils, the countryside dominated by the hardwoods of the region – karri and jarrah – it’s a strikingly beautiful region as well as absolutely perfect for growing premium, intensely flavoured grapes and making expressive, complex wines.
Although the backstory of the region as a potential wine producing area has its beginnings in the 1850’s it wasn’t until 1965 after a number of studies were completed that the first commercial vines were planted.
It’s now fast becoming one of the premier cool-climate destinations renowned for well structured fruit-driven Shiraz, intensely flavoured Rieslings and elegant, dark berry Cabernets and stacks of others too.
Driving south-ish from Perth airport you’ll be there in about four and a half hours.
You’ll love it and you can pop into Margaret River on the way back to Perth too.
Naked Wines has a new wine & it’s also the Angel Free bottle for August! It’s from the Great Southern Region in WA made by Gary Stokes.
Your free bottle is the My other Self Great Southern Shiraz 2014 worth $19.99. So if you are interested in seeing what this incredible region can create, look no further!
Your Free bottle is here: https://www.nakedwines.com.au/wines/my-other-self-gary-shiraz-2014.htm
- Follow winemaker Garry Stokes for all updates from his Great Southern vineyard in WA.
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