Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rotten Neighbours - Part Three...

Ok – one more quick thing…

We hear a lot about rot and how it causes problems with grapes – either during the growing season, or at harvest time. What does it start out like, and how quickly does the problem spread? Of course, there aren’t any absolute answers as we’re dealing with Nature here, but it’s interesting to look at some generalities.

Above are two bunches from different vines at the same time. The one on the right looks much healthier (more uniform etc.) and the one on the left has some evidence of mildew – but at first look it doesn’t seem too bad…

The same two bunches three hours later…..

The rate at which the bunch on the left has declined is astonishing. Of course, being cut from the vine does accelerate the process, but the path to decline had already started by the time it was picked.

As an interesting end note, it’s worth remembering that many vineyards are often far away from the actual winery and we hear a lot about the transport of grapes. Conscientious producers may pick and transport at night – or in smaller boxes – all to avoid what you see above. Essentially, once picked, any less than perfect grapes will immediately start to decompose more rapidly and risk spoiling the rest of the bunches they are in contact with. Of course, diligent picking should have eliminated them in the first place – but that’s not always the case – and of course where machine harvesting is employed (in more places that you would think) it’s impossible to control…

Friday, August 10, 2012

Getting Bottled....

“Getting bottled” had an entirely different meaning to be when I was growing up…, but those young, foolish (and so, so fun!) years are long behind me.

Now getting bottled involved something a little less dangerous – and in reality a lot more fun. As many of you will know, we ran some trials on making both a red and white wine last vintage. The white (Sipon/Furmint) is still at a rather awkward stage (what a great euphemism that is) and is languishing unloved in the corner of the cellar.

But the reds are proving lots of fun at the moment. There are three variants of Modra Frankinja (Blaufrankisch): a cold macerated steel tank fermented one (“Marbles”), a normal temperature, open fermented one (“Traditional”) and a final one comprising the press juice from the first two combined (“Press”). The cold macerated version had been tasting delicious, and since there are only about 150 litres of it and it seemed “ready” (whatever that is – we have yet to discover) so we decided to bottle it. And I think – if we are very honest – part of the thought process was to stop ourselves drinking our way through it bit by bit – as if opening a screwcap was ever an obstacle….

I’d like to think we were following the great Burgundian tradition of bottling direct from the cask or tank, but the reality was that we just didn’t have a bottling machine. And anyway, doing it this way was much more hands on!

So we now have a little stash of regular 75cl bottles, some Magnums and a few smaller 50cl “sampler” bottles all packed up in the corner of the cellar. It’ll be interesting to see how long we can keep our hands off them….

The Traditional one has been racked from the barrel and is now resting in a steel tank for bottling around harvest time. Meanwhile the Press version continues to be the awkward child – with a heavy bout of reduction making assessment particularly difficult. So like any bold child, we have banished it to another room – in this case, the darkness (and oxygen) of the barrel that the Traditional juice just came out of.

We’ll see how it responds….

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Rotten Neighbours - Part Two

Two years ago I wrote a Blog about the problems that can arise when neighbouring vines aren’t looked after – I called it Rotten Neighbours (Rotten Neighbours). To my surprise it became our most viewed Blog – not because I think people are interested in the challenges of inter-vineyard oidium spread, but more because quick look at Google analytics showed that many people are obviously doing searches for “Rotten Neighbours”. Says a lot for the community spirit…

Incidentally, our second most popular Blog (isn’t Google analytics great!) was about luxury Champagne and contained the all important keywords “Cristal” and “Ace of Spades”. If I just add “sex” to this one, the combination of all of the above should ensure many people without any interest in wine whatsoever will stumble across this post….

Anyway, for anyone with some interest – or who hasn’t given up reading by now – you will hopefully be pleased to know we have new neighbours. And more importantly, they have an interest in returning their vineyard to a workable and cared-for state.

My enthusiasm for supporting this approach led me to offer to help out in clearing the vineyard. There are lots of pleasant things in winemaking (not least drinking the finished product), but there are many undesirable tasks that should always be avoided wherever possible: shovelling pressed pips and skin from a finished press onto a trailer along with ten million fruits flies is a good example. Climbing inside a press to clean it along with same flies is another. Clearing a vineyard is also now a good contender for a high ranking. It’s all done manually as a tractor can’t even get into the vineyard because it’s so overgrown. Sweat, sneezes, scratches, bites, trips, sore arms, sunburnt face, soggy shorts, itching, tears (almost), salty skin (from sweat), thirst, stings, blisters, aches and many more whingy ailments contribute to making it an “interesting” experience for a soft-skinned Irish lad.

But we did it – or rather Miro did the majority of it… and I did a bit…..

But underneath all that jungle of growth lay something rather special – or at least potentially rather special. A vineyard that hadn’t been sprayed regularly – and thus free of a build-up of insecticides. A vineyard that hadn’t been artificially fertilised for years. A vineyard where the vines, through lack of attentive pruning, had in many cases found a natural, low yield for the fruit. And of course, plenty of rot. But great potential to start afresh next year….. In the meantime, Miro decided to green harvest all the fruit with the exception of 1 bunch per shoot. It’s a risk given the dangers of the last bunch getting rot, or being hit by hail – but if it pays off (and it has so far), some very interesting wine could be produced from it….

And so we wave goodbye to the Rotten Neighbours – and hopefully hello to a hole new bunch of readers who came looking to find out how to solve that awkward problem of neighbourly music being played too loud, unsociably late parties, rubbish being dumped in the garden… and of course luxury Champagne and sex….