The first crush of my Year of Winemaking, indeed of my life (excluding my horribly fucked up student wines, which simply don’t count in any meaningful way), was about four tonnes of Lake’s Folly Chardonnay. Together with the excellent winery team, led by Rod Kempe, we processed two press loads of great fruit and then cleaned up.
First point to note here is that all the stories you’ve heard about cleaning at wineries are true. It’s incredibly important and seemingly endless, though when it does end there is often a refreshing beer on hand, which for me, today, was beyond welcome. I’ve already learned to detest the way seeds get stuck in every nook and cranny of processing equipment. To the extent that I have any OCD tendencies, they were certainly exercised today.
As I sit here, feeling pretty tired, a lot of things are swirling around in my head. Three years of University, in many ways, has barely prepared me for work in an actual winery, where process and equipment are of the essence. But it’s fascinating to jump in and out of the physical act of making wine to reflect on the decisions being made. Rod has shared his thinking every step of the way, from his decision to pick, taken late yesterday, to each choice he has made during initial processing of the Chardonnay. His is a deliberate approach borne of twenty five years of experience as well as respect for the heritage of the Estate. I’m soaking it all up.
What’s completely evident to me after only a couple of days here is how much I have to learn, and the distance I have to travel to integrate a lot of (valuable) textbook knowledge with its real world context. For example, Rod and I wandered through the whole vineyard tasting grapes today. I could see his experience shoot through what he was tasting to a decision on which blocks to pick. For me, that sort of knowledge remains to be acquired.
As ever with wine, the industry’s collegiate vibe is a great joy, and I’ve already paid some fascinating visits to Tyrrell’s and Thomas Wines, both fully in the vintage swing. The different choices each winemaker makes, some simply nuances, some quite large, are a source of great fascination for me, even as the experiences out of which they have grown remain opaque. Clearly, though, within the basic parameters of winemaking, there are a multitude of paths one night follow, which adds enormous interest and variability to what is already a highly variable agricultural product. There’s a reason why wine can consume people, both makers and drinkers, and this is part of it.
Tomorrow, we’ll rack the settled Chardonnay juice and get some ferments going, some in tank and some straight into barrel. Should be good.