Monday, 15 March 2010

Our English adventure begins!

As I said in my last blog, whilst in Australia we signed for a 6 hectare plot near Marlow, where Kaye and I found ourselves after coming back from our year in France. It was a complete fluke I found this land, simply had a quick search on the internet and voila! Three weeks later we’ve signed and have put a deposit down for 20,000 baby vines. No turning back now!

It’s all happened so quickly, but I went up there today, the sun was shinning and I took this photo. I know it’s a picture of a field, but that’s all it is at the moment, a lot has to be done before we plant.

It’s a beautiful spot that overlooks the lovely river Thames below and the even more beautiful A404 to the left!! It ticks all the right boxes: south facing chalk slope, 50m above sea level and great exposure to both the east and west. Obviously there is a risk in growing in our climate, but many vineyards are now producing fantastic sparkling wine, and there’s no reason why ours should be any different. It’s a long term investment, and we won’t see the release of our first wine for maybe another 6 years, but I figure I’m still young and there is no time like the present.

We’re going to plant 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier, all with different clones and rootstocks, but all tailored to our chalky site. I hope to produce a vintage sparkling each year and then maybe a younger blanc de blanc and a house style that will be determined by how our vines perform and what we prefer to drink! But this could all change as the years go by.

First up we have to protect our site from the leaf-eating dear and rabbits! This will hopefully start next week and I can’t wait to get up there and smash some posts in!


Thursday, 4 March 2010

My annual Oz trip

As has been the norm for me over the last 7 years, I have just made my usual trip over to the sunnier side of the world. The main reason was to check over and prepare the latest edition of Wilson Gunn 2008 for bottling whilst also getting a chance to see the NEW RedHeads.

This part of the world (McLaren Vale) means a lot to me as it where I started my winemaking journey over 11 years ago. As a fresh faced 17 year old I got a job with Tatachilla winery as the lowest of the low-level cellar hands. It was bloody hard work but I learnt a lot from the then head winemaker Michael Fragos (now winemaker at Chapel Hill), and assistant winemaker and long time friend Adam Hooper, one of the original RedHeads members and maker of La Curio. Along the way I have made many more friends out there, many of which have come over to help me with my Bordeaux harvest.

Anyway since the early days things have moved on and everyone now seems to have their own shed! RedHeads is not now about one place, but about a collection of guys producing fantastic stuff in their own place, but still meeting up around an impromptu BBQ to talk shop and drink way too much beer into the early hours of the morning. It now brings more diversity into all the wines as you can taste the same parcel of fruit made in two different sheds, producing very different wines. It really is fascinating to see how the concept has evolved over the years and a lot of great photos were taken to show this, which I’m sure you’ll see in a mailing soon.

While I was there I had to finalise the blend for the Wilson Gunn 2008 Bellum Shiraz Cabernet. This was not easy as in 2008 we had a massive heatwave in the middle of vintage and everything that was picked after really suffered. So from my 28 barrels, I only managed to select 10 that were good enough, all picked pre-heatwave. But on the upside we have a cracking wine that shows classic deep purple concentration, smooth tannins and buckets of eucalyptus and spice flavours - it’s gunna be good!

Overall everyone seemed very excited about the 2010 harvest. After two hard years it looks to be a classic McLaren Vale vintage, concentrated and ripe!

Oh and I forgot to say, whilst I was away my wife Kaye signed on the dotted line for our piece of English terroir near Marlow, and then ordered 20,000 vines that will be ready for planting in May. Will tell more next time!