Thursday, March 27, 2008

Winemaking 2008 - the update

It’s time for an update on the 2008 wine vintage, and, unfortunately, the news isn’t good…

This is our third year of winemaking. Our first attempt was with Chambourcin grapes bought from a neighbour, and the resulting wine was pretty good. Our second attempt used our own shiraz grapes, and the result again, was pretty good. We were offering our wine to friends and family who all told us they thought the wine was very drinkable, and I don’t think they were just being polite. We even got a “Highly Commended” award at a local amateur winemaking show. So our confidence in tackling our third vintage was up.

I’ve already blogged about the diabolical weather conditions in the weeks leading up to grape picking. 9 inches of rain in 24 hours sums it up. We were experienced enough to know that weather is everything, and the condition of the grapes depended on it.

Anyway, we picked the grapes which looked okay. Some were a bit squashed. None, miraculously, had split (perhaps because temperatures were pretty mild).

Crushing went well. We reckon we have about 200 litres of grape juice. Five days later we pressed the juice, the process where you separate the fermenting grape juice from the skins. This is where our problems started.

The merlot looks fine. The shiraz, however, is a light mauve colour, not the deep burgundy it should be. It tastes fine, but the colour is a bit offputting, to say the least.

Action Man tried to rescue the situation by putting the juice back on the skins for a little longer, and re-pressing, but this doesn’t seem to have had much effect.

This is where lack of experience shows up. Winemaking professionals would probably be able to predict this problem and deal with it before it becomes a problem, whereas us bumbling amateurs try to put a bandaid on afterwards.

Not sure what we are going to do with the wine. It’s in its secondary fermentation for the next few months, so we can just forget about it for a while. If it is still light mauve by the time it comes to bottling, I’m not sure we’ll bother. I suppose it depends on how the taste comes up.

I’ll tell you what though, it is episodes like this that cement the respect I have for anyone who tries to make a living from the land. Our little 5 acres gives us enough of a window into the heartbreak these folk must deal with all the time. Our heroes should be all those farmers and primary producers dealing with everything that the weather, disease, pestilence and sheer bad luck throw at them. Their resilience is truly courageous.

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