The warm weather throughout Summer has resulted in an early start to vintage for 2018. Despite the picking starting earlier than usual, the quality of the fruit has been fabulous and the winemaking staff have been eager to get their hands on the fabulous fruit.
As is usual at Balgownie, chardonnay is the first varietal to ripen and the first variety to be picked. The Old Vine Chardonnay (planted in 1976) was the picked first, followed by the Young Chardonnay Block (planted in 1983). These vineyards, along with all the vineyards at Balgownie are hand-picked as this results in the only the top quality fruit being harvested, as the pickers are able to ignore the fruit that is not fully ripe.
In addition Shiraz that has been earmarked for our delectable Rosé has also been harvested. It is crucial that the grapes for this wine have the right balance between ripeness, acid and flavour to produce a delicious wine that continues to grow in popularity.
Veraison is the point where ripening begins and the grapes begin to change colour and accumulate sugar. White grapes, such as Chardonnay begin to take on their characteristic yellow/green colour while red grapes such as Pinot Noir begin to turn to a red/black colour.
Visit the Yarra Valley Cellar Door over the holidays and try our fabulous new relesase 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
Read the oustanding reviews:
“Born from vines that average almost 50 years of age, this is a big bold cabernet of deep concentration, lavish, palate-sticking tannins and ferrous, savoury character. It’s heady in perfume of blackcurrants, plums, gum leaf and blonde tobacco. The palate is an assertive thrust of choc-berry flavours, sweet earthiness and rib-sticking, tacky-textured tannins. It’s a wine of immense presence now, and should be tamed gradually with cellaring, to reveal more nuance and detail.” Mike Bennie, Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine June/July 2017
"It’s a big black beast of a red, hints of bitumen accentuating the ripeness. Again, however, it’s pulled back from the edge of overripeness by the depth of fruit and grippy tannins. It’s just a fraction too warm this vintage, a little bit soupy on the edges. Impressive concentration can’t be sneezed at however – it goes on and on, and deserves plaudits on depth of flavour alone. Best drinking: 2019-2033. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass." Andrew Graham, Australian Wine Review.
James Halliday’s 2018 Wine Companion - Rating 91
Visit the Yarra Valley Cellar Door over the holidays and try our fabulous new relesase 2014 Estate Shiraz.
Read the oustanding reviews:
“As ever a big wine, but not ugly. Dark fruit, dark chocolate oak, dark, warming flavours. There’s an effortless blackness here – a deep, all consuming black, licoricey, almost tarry width. It’s fractionally boozy, but not dessicated, just driven by black, almost molasses intensity. Packs a massive wallop of flavour, with a length that is something else. Impressive, but can you forgive the alcohol warmth in a quest for length like that? I can. Will live forever too. Best drinking: 2020-2034. 18/20, 93/100. Would I buy it? A glass or two now, more later.” Andrew Graham, Australian Wine Review.
James Halliday’s 2018 Wine Companion - Rating 93
2016 Ballarat Wine Show Trophy for Best Wine of Show
2016 Ballarat Wine Show Trophy for Best Shiraz
2016 Ballarat Wine Show Trophy for Best Regional Shiraz
2016 Small Winemakers Show Top Gold in Two Year Old Shiraz
Merlot is one of the most planted premium grape varieties in the world, best known for being a component in Bordeaux blends. The Merlot grape is thought to be the result of a natural cross between Cabernet Franc and another unidentified grape, making it a sibling (or step-sibling) to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Regularly vinified together, Merlot has several advantages over Cabernet Sauvignon as it ripens earlier and more quickly, as well as providing slightly higher yields. The finished wine that Merlot produces is softer and rounder with gentle tannins that provides a contrast to the heavier more structured Cabernet Sauvignon. These characteristics have seen the grape being widely planted in both Old and New World countries.
Merlot is in fact the third most planted red variety in Australia behind Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, with 10 537 hectares under vine. Despite this popularity Merlot is yet to really find a definitive regional home in Australia, with most of the fruit being used to soften Cabernet Sauvignon. When used in a varietal wine the results have tended to produce soft and fruity wines designed to be drunk young.
The first Merlot vineyard was planted in the mid 70’s at Balgownie Estate on clay soils with alluvial gravel at Bendigo. As the vines matured the potential for Merlot grown in Bendigo became apparent and led to further plantings in 1997. The objective at Balgownie has always been not to make a Merlot in the typical soft, fruity, easy drinking style, but to make a bigger, richer, age worthy style that would demonstrate the capabilty of the variety and the potential of the vineyard site.
To produce our Estate Merlot it is crucial that all the elements come together in the vineyard. This is such a unique wine that it can only be produced in an outstanding vintage where the levels of sunlight, warmth and rainfall all conspire to produce flawless grapes. The yields in the vineyards are kept very low, around one tonne to the acre, to build flavour, complexity and intensity in the fruit. To retain these qualities, the fruit is hand picked before being transported immediately to the winery.
Once in the winery the fruit is destemmed and gently crushed to open fermenters where it slowly fermented over 21 days. During the fermentation process, traditional hand plunging techniques were used to maximise extraction from the skins. The finished wine was aged in a combination of new and old French barriques for 14 months before being bottled.
The new release of the 2015 Estate Merlot is faithful to our objective and is a rich and opulent wine with layers of complex flavours supporting an appealing and savoury palate with fine tannins. This a wine to enjoy with a good meal and good friends or it will comfortably cellar for 6 to 8 years.
Cellar Door Price $45 per bottle
Platinum Wine Club Members $33.75 per bottle
Wine Club Members $38.25 (as part of a dozen bottles)
I have posted before (Is Old Wine Better than Younger Wine?), about aging wine and the changes that wine goes through over time, and whether all wine will benefit from spending a period in the Cellar. If you enjoy aged wines and decide that you would like to cellar bottles yourself, there are a number of factors you must consider.
Patience is the first and most important consideration for any wine collector; there is no substitute for the time that wine spends in the cellar. There are many gadgets on sale that claim to speed up the aging process, but they often spoil the wine by making it look stewed or cooked. The only way to age wine successfully is with the necessary time...and the will power to allow the wine to mature.
Wine needs to be stored at a constant cool temperature, ideally between 10 and 15˚ Celsius. If the temperature is too hot the wine will mature too quickly, and there is the possibility that it will developed a cooked character. Conversely, storage at temperatures too cold will slow the maturation process. The temperature should be constant, as fluctuations can cause the cork to expand and contract which may result in oxygen ingress that will spoil the wine.
A good level of humidity, around 75% is also an important requirement for cellaring wine sealed with a cork. Without adequate humidity the cork can dry out, which will allow the ingress of oxygen and lead to the deterioration of the wine. This is the reason why long tern storage in a household refrigerator is not advised, as they tend to remove humidity and moisture. An excess amount of humidity on the other hand, will not really harm the wine, but can have detrimental effect on the labels.
The most problematic light comes in the form of UV radiation from the sun, this is why most of the wines that are designed for long term cellaring are found in dark brown or antique green bottles. Sunlight or excessive normal household light (such as in a commerical fridge) can speed up the aging process and ultimately spoil the wine.
Lay wine on its side. This is very important for wine that is sealed with a cork. Keeping the wine in contact with the cork will ensure that it remains moist and forms a good seal that will not let any air enter the bottle. Wines sealed with other closures, such as screw caps or vinoloks, do not need to lie down and can be stored upright
As well, do not disturb the bottle at all. Allowing it to lie untouched will allow the sediment to form naturally, which will eventually make the wine simpler and easier to decant when it is ready for drinking.
How long to Age?
The best way to answer is to buy a dozen bottles and then drink them over time – this way you can watch the wine as it develops and hopefully you will never be caught with wine that is too old to enjoy. Of course it is not always practical nor financially viable to buy so much wine and most of the time a bottle or two is all that will be cellared. In this case it is best to rely on the advice of wine producer or retailers. Both these sources tend to be very conservative when predicting the length of time to cellar a wine, as they would much prefer that the wine was drunk a little too young (and you can marvel at how youthful it looks) rather than drinking it too old when it may have lost a lot of interesting characters (and you will be disappointed).
Where to Cellar
Most wine lovers would like to have an underground cellar that was temperature stable and could hold their wine collection (I know I would). Sadly, however this is not always possible or practical. A good alternative is to invest in a dedicated wine storage unit; there a number of different brands available that vary considerably in capacity, price and quality.
However, if you are just starting your wine collection, then storing the wine in an appropriate environment in the home is the best place to start. Choose a cool area, not on an outside wall (that the sun may warm) and definitely not in the kitchen or the lounge room (generally the warmest places in the house). A spare bedroom or the bottom of the linen cupboard are ideal – dark, undisturbed and not prone to temperature changes.
Finally a word of warning – wine collections have a tendency to grow and proliferate, so don't underestimate the space you may eventually need.