Cabernet Sauvignon is traditionally one of the last grapes to ripen and hence is one of the last grapes be picked at Balgownie Estate Bendigo. As with all the grapes at Balgownie Estate, the Cabernet has been picked by hand to ensure that only the best fruit is picked when it displays the optimum balance between fruit, acid and sugar.
The warm weather has resulted in the Cabernet appearing particularly good this year and the fruit was delivered to the winery in ideal condition. The fruit was destemmed and partially crushed before beginning a slow fermentation in open vats. The ferments were pumped over on a daily basis to ensure that the grape skins and the fermenting juice remained in contact and to maximise the extract of colour and tannins. The picture above shows a pump over in progress with the wine being taken from the bottom of the open vat and sprayed over the top of the feremnting skins.
After a long week with all the staff working extremely hard, most of the shiraz has been picked and is currently happily fermenting. Shiraz is fermented on skins to extract colour and tannin that are needed in the finished wine. While fermenting in open vats, the shiraz is pumped over twice a day, which keeps the fermenting wine and skins in contact and maximises the level of extract.
In the Yarra Valley, the picking crews have been fantastic and have very rapidly managed to pick all the chardonnay and pinot noir over a couple of days. Unusually both the chardonnay and pinot noir were ripe at the same time, as a consequence of the warm weather and high levels of sunshine that we experienced. Thanks to a heroic effort all the fruit was removed over two very long days and has been whipped off to the winery to be made in to delicious wine.
The sudden burst of warm weather has ripened the grapes and the picking crews have been working very hard getting all the fruit to the winery as quickly as possible. In Bendigo the first grapes to be harvested last week were Merlot which is destined to play a role in our fabulous Black Label Cabernet Merlot. For those that enjoy our increasingly popular Sangiovese, the burst of sunshine rounded the berries off nicely and has resulted in a beautiful looking crop with good balance. The 2019 Black Label Sangiovese is wine to keep an eye out for when it is released in a few years time.
The focus on the picking though the coming week will be on our Shiraz. With a number of different vineyards becoming ripe and at the point of picking at the same time, it is sure to be a busy week for the both the pickers and the winery staff.
The first vineyards to be picked will be Lone Gum and Fruit Salad where the fruit is earmarked for our popular Black Label Shiraz. Later this week, the harvesting will begin on the older shiraz blocks on the property – Rock Block, Railway Block and the fifty-year-old Centre Block. The fruit is in sensational condition and has a nice balance between sweetness, acid and fruit flavours, which should result in a remarkable wine to celebrate the fifth birthday of Balgownie Estate.
The cooler weather has slowed the ripening of the grapes and much to the relief of the winemaking crew, has meant a brief pause in grapes arriving in the winery. This week we picked Rock Block West which has been earmarked for our spectacular Rosé. The grapes were hand-picked in two separate passes through the vineyard to ensure that the berries were harvested at their absolute best.
The shiraz fruit for the Rosé was quickly transported to the winery where it was crushed and left on skins very briefly to ensure the finished wine has that delightful pink blush colour. After crushing the juice was pumped to stainless steel tanks for fermentation.
Also this week we picked viognier, an unusual white variety from France. We have not made a viognier for a number of years, but this years the fruit was outstanding and we decided to make a varietal wine. The viognier was hand-picked and then crushed and pressed immediately to oak where fermentation with indigenous yeast began.
The pickers have been hard at work in the vineyard carefully hard harvesting the Chardonnay from the Old Vine Vineyard in Bendigo. Hand picking our fruit allows our grapes to be harvested at their very best and allows the pickers to discard any of the fruit that is substandard. The quantity of the Chardonnay has been excellent although the amount of fruit harvested is slightly down on last year.
The fruit harvested is destined for our Bendigo Estate Chardonnay, our celebrated chardonnay that has been produced since the first release in 1979.
Today Balgownie Estate harvested the first grapes of it’s 50th anniversary vintage. This year will mark fifty years since vines were planted at Maiden Gully outside Bendigo and the journey of Balgownie Estate began. The fifty year history of Balgownie Estate has seen it grow to be one of the premier boutique vineyards in the country.
The first pick this morning was Chardonnay fruit that is destined for our delicious Cuvee Sparkling Brut. The berries were hand-harvested in the cool morning which is perfect for maintaining the fruit at an ideal temperature and ideal for allowing the pickers to keep cool as well.
The Chardonnay grapes that go into the Cuvee Sparkling Brut are usually the first to be harvested as we want to retain the natural acidity of the fruit. The grapes have been pressed and the juice is being held in tank for cold settling overnight – this will remove any grape skins or stems that are left floating on the juice. Tomorrow fermentation with wild yeast will begin to transform the juice into sparkling wine.
Cabernet Franc is a very ancient grape, usually thought of as a French variety, however recent studies have concluded that it likely originated in Spain. Although it is probably best recognized as a one of the varieties that constitute a traditional ‘Bordeaux blend’ along with the better known components Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, Cabernet Franc has a major role in the Loire Valley appellations of Bourgueil, Chinon and Saumur. It is also a major variety of the rosé Cabernet d'Anjou.
Cabernet Franc buds and matures earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon and is often viewed as an insurance policy against the results of poor weather. It is popular in cooler areas and the resultant wines for Cabernet Franc tend to be lighter in colour and in tannin with aromas of currants, cherries, plums and spice with an herbaceous touch.
Despite Cabernet Franc being one of the varieties brought to Australia by James Busby in 1833 it was never widely planted in Australia, with most of the fruit being used in a traditional Bordeaux Blend. It is only in more recent times that winemakers have begun to experiment and produce a straight varietal of Cabernet Franc.
The Cabernet Franc grown in Bendigo has always been a little reluctant to shine and produce it’s best. However the outstanding vintage conditions in 2017 resulted in exceptional grapes that allowed the production of a varietal Cabernet Franc (with a touch of Shiraz) for the first time. This is a lovely smooth wine with flavours of blueberries, mulberry, juniper and allspice are wrapped around a savoury core with well-balanced and fine tannins
Cellar Door Price $29 per bottle
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"Who doesn’t like chunky, old school Chardonnay? This is open, and generous, flush with white peach, vanilla bean oak all over the nose, the palate tauter through the finish than the juicy peach fruit suggests. Old school width, meets new school acidity. It falls just a little into tinned cream peaches, but plenty of flavour." Best drinking: Now and for the nest 2-3yrs. 90/100.