Viognier 2009

What a weekend. On Saturday we worked until we dropped. We initially thought we would pick and press the Viognier in one day but the best laid plans always go awry. We began picking 9.15 in the morning, after a good breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast. Just as well, because except for grapes, that was all we would have a chance to eat until dinner that night. Colin and I picked 700 kg of Viognier by ourselves. vintage-003It was the hardest work I think I’ve ever done in my life! We’re both tall people and our vines aren’t low-growing, but some of the ground is a little uneven and the vines are young so are still dipping a little. vintage-007Plus Viognier is what you’d call a “free spirit” vine. It doesn’t behave itself but rambles around and the grape bunches grow every which way, including upwards, which means they can entangle themselves around the wires. But boy, what lovely, fat, golden, ripe, luscious fruit.vintage-006Kete was amazing. She stayed with us all day, trying to help by first driving the tractor.vintage-001Then when that didn’t work.vintage-0021She turned to quality control.vintage-005And when she was satisfied we were picking to a very high standard.vintage-004She just kept us company.

As we filled the picking bins, we pushed them under the rows, then I started off driving the Kubota tractor along the rows while Colin picked up and put the full bins on the low, narrow trailer. However, I was terrified (I’d only had one lesson on tractor driving) so Colin took over and I picked up – a back-breaking job as each bin weighs around 10kg and you have to do it virtually on the run. You can see them stacked on the trailer behind the VW in this picture:vintage-009We finished this at 6pm, just on dark, and luckily it was cold so we backed the trailers full of grapes into the winery and the barn and arranged to take them in to Roger at Stonecutter Winery the next morning for pressing. We barely had enough energy to sink into a bath, lift our dinner into our mouths, then fall into bed.vintage-011The Italian press is this cylinder with a diaphragm inside which inflates then gently presses the grapes. It takes two hours per pressing and our 700kg took two pressings. Here’s our first juice coming out into the catcher.vintage-010Then it was a case of pumping the juice into our 550litre plastic tank, strapping it carefully to the trailer and driving slowly back to Redbank and pouring the first lot of juice into our second plastic tank – the first 2009 Viognier to come home:vintage-012After repeating this process with the second pressing, we decided to settle the juice in the two tanks as we now had just too much for one. I added the bentonite, stirred it up, and left it to settle overnight The brix was 25.

Next day, Monday, I took the brix again, and in one tank it had gone up to 26, and in the other it was 25, so it was perfect. John Porter (Porters’ Pinot) arrived with his pump, and because we had more juice than anticipated, we abandoned our original plan of fermenting the Viognier in our new Italian 200litre stainless steel tank and an oak barrel. Instead we decided to pump it into a 1200 litre stainless steel tank we bought from John some months ago. The juice had settled by this stage, leaving sludge at the bottom, so into the tank, “Annabel”, it went. Then we mixed up the yeast, starting it off at 39 degrees, then gradually adding juice to get it down to 20 degrees before adding it to the juice through the top of “Annabel”. vintage-015Today, Tuesday, the Viognier smells lovely and if you put your ear to the aperture at the top of the tank you can hear a crackling and a popping so the fermenting is underway. Kapai.

Next blog instalment – HIP HIP, SYRAH!

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