The 2016 vintage was a rather tough one. With good rains during the growing season prospects were looking good for the vintage. The rain stopped and I literally mean stopped on the 26th of January and very unusually hot weather set in. It was three weeks of above 34 degrees, very dry weather. Testing the grapes for ripeness at the beginning of February told us that most of the fruit was still three weeks away, at least. A week later most of the fruit tested high sugar concentration but not flavour ripeness. We decided to pick the fruit as soon as we could and by the time we arranged a harvester some of the fruit was falling on the ground. The only varieties that did reasonably well were the Shiraz and the Cabernet Sauvignon. I guess I tempted fate by saying El Nino had not hit us yet last November. It hit with a vengeance during February, March and April. The rain started again in May with good falls all the way through to where we are in mid-June. El Nino faded during May and was replaced by La Nina, (the little sister). I assume that the wild storms along the east coast could be attributed to La Nina as well as the rain we have had in Mudgee. Another rain event is due this weekend with possibilities of substantial rain, 2-4 inches in the old currency. This flip flopping of weather patterns does no really correlate with most of the weather history and by history I mean back through the last 40 to 50 years. I think most people agree that climate change is real and the changes are evident but hardly predictable. With that I will go on to some of the highlights of this years vintage.
The 2016 King, our 50/50 blend of the old blocks of Shiraz and Cabernet has great potential. It is sleeping in some lovely new barrels. The Shiraz was a bit overripe but the Cabernet straightened that out as it was less so. The fruit was fermented together in the same tank so the flavours were blending from the start. At pressing the colour and fruit richness of the raw wine was quite intense. After that, a few racks and off to the barrels. We will rack the “King” out of barrels mid July assess the taste and probably send it back to barrels for a few more months ageing. If things go according to plan the new King could be released by January 2017, fingers crossed.
The real standout this vintage was the Preservative Free Shiraz. The grapes were from Botobolar and Findlay certified vineyards. Findlay vineyard is located in Gulgong so the grapes only had to travel about 25 kilometres to get here. We fermented the Botobolar and Findlay fruit in our 2 Potter fermenters, about 12 tonnes in each one. We then pressed the wine and sent it off to a 13500 litre tank to rest on gross lees. Gross lees are sediments of mainly yeast and very small pieces of grape matter. I think the key to this wine this year is there has been minimal intervention. There were no fining agents used and the wine was racked off gross lees after sitting for a month. Sitting on the yeast gives the wine a softer mouth feel and the wine gains clarity. Finally we put the wine through a series of 6 filtrations, each of the 6 steps through finer filtration media. Since we had time we only did one fitration per week giving the wine a week to rest. I think this technique helped with the filterability and the overall suppleness of the wine. We shall see but I think this wine is a winner because of its opulent fruit character and brilliant colour.
WE are releasing two new wines this Bugle, both reds to get us through the winter.
The first is the 2015 Merlot. Trina wanted a Merlot so bad she bought 5 tonnes of organic Merlot fruit from Finday Organic Vineyard in Gulgong, the same vineyard that we source organic Shiraz for the Preservative Free. The Merlot came into the winery at just about perfect ripeness and made a wine that has soft tannins but lovely juicy dark fruit flavours. Its colour is bright rose red, a jewel in the glass. It spent 8 months in French and American oak barrels and was bottled in January. The nose is fresh dark berry with spice. Merlots we have made in the past had the same soft tannins but not the almost explosive fruit flavours of this wine. I can be cellared but I think it is more suited to earlier drinking since it tastes very good right now.
The other new wine is the 2013 Kev’s Cab, old name, new wine. Picked from our young Cabernet block, (18 years old), here at Botobolar. This wine is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Merlot. The colour is deep brick red with a nose of cedar and cigar box. A savoury wine meant for food. I think this wine has received all the age that it needs and would be best drunk in the next year or two.