Whatever will be, will be. A damn fine wine, that’s what it will be.
Jancis Robinson calls Syrah “one of the noblest black grape varieties, if nobility is bestowed by an ability to produce serious red wines capable of ageing magestically for decades” (The Oxford Companion to Wine, 1994, Oxford University Press). Of all our four grape varieties, Syrah certainly looks the most picturesque in the vineyard.
The bunches almost look like those wax or plastic grapes your nana used to have in fruit bowls, when grapes were far too expensive for working people to buy. It’s a tricky grape for us to grow (like Viognier) because for our cool climate it ripens late and we have to wait for the grapes to shrivel a little, to soften, before we harvest. On the other hand, there’s a risk that if they’re left too long on the vine they lose a lot of their flavour. We have 2000 vines, and we picked on Monday, with Nick’s pickers. John Porter brought his destemmer over to Redbank, which sat over our new Italian 2000 litre stainless steel tank. Here are the grapes falling into the tank:
It was hard work, lifting the picking bins up to John on the new platform, but fun, with everyone working away trying to keep up with the pickers. That’s John up on the platform, Nick Hoskins passing up bins, and me in the background (I think I’m washing equipment having just poured the yeast into the Viognier). We quickly filled our tank – almost too full as it turned out – so we have 2000 litres of Syrah 2009. The brix came in at 25 – perfect. We couldn’t have asked for better. Today I took a sample over to Larry McKenna at Escarpment and he’s doing a Ph and T/A (total acid) test for us so it will be interesting to see what that comes in at. I also took a sample of our 2008 Syrah, which Larry made and which has been in barrels in our winery since May 2008, for the same tests, so we’ll see if that’s ready for bottling.
Last night, Wednesday, Colin and I mixed up the Syrah yeast – it takes two hours to get it to the right temperature – then innoculated the Syrah. Now we have to plunge the cap four times a day. Colin gets up at 6am for the first plunge. I do two during the day, and he does the fourth when he gets home at night. It’s incredibly hard, physical work, and when you lift the lid off the tank the CO2 hits you in the face. But it’s nice working in the winery; taking the temperature of the juice, making sure it’s not getting too warm, putting your ear to the tanks and listening to the incredible noises of the ferment. When I do my plunging I put on some Maria Callas and work my way through about 20 arias, figuring if the diva can put so much energy into her voice, I can try and equal the energy into the Syrah. And who knows, maybe some good Verdi and Puccini helps make some beautiful wine. Did you ever read “Like Water For Chocolate”? Well, there you go.
And in the middle of all this excitement, we had some more thrilling news. You can read about that in the next blog instalment…