Click above to see a video of the bottling of our 2011 Curly Flat Chardonnay.
On the bottling run that is! Last week we bottled our 2011 Curly Flat Chardonnay, a vintage that has not only produced some exciting wines, but also provided for our greatest challenge “yet” viticulturally speaking. On this we are far from alone as the intense wet and humid conditions of 2011 affected all viticultural areas on the Australian east coast for that year. Despite this adversity we feel we’ve made some of our best wines to date and it is a testament to our site and to the dedication of our vineyard crew, that we have to sometimes remind ourselves it was such a difficult vintage.
And as no vintage is truly complete until it’s safely in the bottle, we’ll always enjoy bottling for this reason. This isn’t say the bottling run itself cannot be arduous or is in itself a blast, but when we consider the level of commitment and care through all stages of the resulting wines life, we ultimately bottle with a sense of deep satisfaction which is felt throughout the entire team. Also it is our multi-skilled vineyard crew, who guided the fruit from the vineyard into the winery, who work the bottling line ensuring the same continuity of quality is upheld from vine to wine. Well done guys!
Next up we’ll be bottling the 2011 Curly Flat Pinot Noir early next year. This won’t released until 2014, but it is already shaping up as a hauntingly beautiful, intensely fragrant and fine boned expression with great length and carry. The 2011 Chardonnay will be released mid next year to allow for some bottle development. For a preview of these wines, keep your eye out the 2011 Williams Crossing wines, as they’ll continue their trademark ‘crossing’ of where value intersects with true varietal expression.
Last week we reviewed each and every barrel (as we do every year) from the 2011 vintage to determine the split between our two labels. Before we explain our barrel classification process, first a little about the two labels. Curly Flat and Williams Crossing have always represented exceptional value in terms of purity in both varietal and site expression relative to their price points. Both labels are born of the one vineyard and vinified with uniform care and attention but for a myriad of reasons, a barrel may not always reach our exacting standards to make Curly Flat which we feel is structurally complete and built for the long haul in the cellar. But this shouldn’t lead people to believe our second label is second rate, far from it. Williams Crossing provides for exceptional earlier drinking with clear varietal expression that also offers rewards for medium term cellaring but also serves to advertise our mission statement in a bottle, as the high quality of Williams Crossing conveys our intent to make Curly Flat the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay through the lens of our site.
So how do we decide what’s what? With a panel of at least 4 people (The winery team that consists of Phillip Moraghan, Matt Regan, Ben Kimmorley and then Robert Paul, our independent consultant who provides an external viewpoint) we assess every barrel of the vintage as they approach a year in maturation represented via a 375ml sample and scrutinise it under the conditions of a blind tasting. Once we have had around two minutes to form our own independent views, the make up of the barrel is revealed i.e:
- Block (Vineyard Location)
- Clone(s) (5 Clones of Pinot Noir & 4 clones of Chardonnay)
- Cooper (Barrel Source)
- Barrel Age (First, second, third use etc.)
- Forest (Allier, Troncais, Vosges etc.)
- Destemmed or Whole Bunch %
- Trial Work (something we’ve tried differently vs. standard practice)
We then spend around an equal amount of time deliberating the barrels nuances and potential offering to either WX or the CF label. Once all barrels are classified, the break down of information is then entered into our ever growing database, allowing for the slow revelation of potential trends, further informing us for future decisions. It will take years for true patterns to appear, not to say we’re looking for a singular formula as that approach is against the ultimate nature of our pursuit, which is allowing each vintage to express itself in the bottle. For this we feel we already have got the most important element right. This is the exceptional aspect and soils that make up Curly Flat Vineyard, and our main charge is to unlock its total potential, which will just take time and for that there is no substitute.
After 20 months in barrel, the 2010 Curly Flat Pinot Noir now moves onto its next phase. We have now transferred all barrels to tank via our peristaltic pump and the wine will now rest and await bottling early next year. We do this not only to allow any residual lees to settle out, but it also gives the array of component barrels time to integrate as a whole whilst assisting the wine to acclimatise for closure under screw cap. Then the wine will then be released in early 2013 after a year in bottle.
The wine itself looks very promising so far with swirls of plums and sour cherry skins, resonating in both dark and bright notes with good acidity entwined in an earthen spice twist. Currently poised between subtlety and power, this wine will have plenty of time ahead to unfold itself. We’re definitely looking forward to that!
Although vintage is between three and four months away, it is ever present in our minds. In the meantime though we have plenty to keep us busy. For instance we’ve modified our existing 4000 litre stainless steel tanks to have doors and racking valves. This gives us further flexibility in or out of vintage when racking juice or wine to barrel. An example of our continuous improvement program in effect! Check out the short video in the winery section with Simon from Fine Weld cutting out the tank section for the door.
Currently in the winery we are about to place our oak order for the 2012 vintage, securing our selected barrels and ensuring that they have adequate time to arrive from France.
The above photo illustrates our oak matrix and the myriad of elements that make up the decision making process.
To make it more interesting, we have to take a educated guess as to how much fruit we think we’ll have to determine how much oak we need. This scenario is painted with broad brush strokes as the vines are only just beginning flowering/fruit-set and from there harvest is still 3-4 months away at least, so our outlook is formed via a best case scenario tempered by crucial past experience.
Once we have determined how much new oak we require, our attention then turns to exactly what oak that is. That’s where the more complicated decisions begin…
To help guide these decisions we have historical data that has been accumulated over several vintages, with the wine from each barrel being scored in a blind tasting around one year into maturation. This approach ensures judgement by pure performance and clonal compatibility rather than by brand or preceding reputations.
Ultimately though our primary mantra of ‘site expression’ gets louder in our minds each vintage. This means we want the presence of our fruit to be foremost and for oak and other elements to be in a supportive role only. Some may construe this to mean oak is not important, but the ‘less is more’ approach only makes the oak decisions more critical!
As you can see the 2010 Chardonnay is bottled and now begins it’s next phase of life whilst awaiting its release in 2012. Why wait some might say, but as the journey of each chardonnay has taken 2 years from bud to bottle, our model has always been to let our Curly Flat wines reintegrate for the best part of a year post bottling. This is so that while youthful, the wine is showing it’s true face upon release. Also the 2010 vintage will be the first time our Chardonnay will be available in 375ml bottles as well as our usual 750ml & 1.5Lt magnum options.
But that’ll be next year, so in the mean time enjoy our 2009 Curly Flat Chardonnay…
Come next Tuesday, we’ll be bottling the 2010 Curly Flat Chardonnay. Before we bottle, we currently filter the Chardonnay using Cross Flow Filtration technology. The reasons we choose this filter type are two-fold. Firstly, it is non-oxidative as the vertical columns which contain the filtering medium are enclosed and air tight, so no air can exist internally in the filter. This significantly reduces the risk of oxidation and therefore maintains the integrity of the wine. Some filtration methods can be quite oxidative as the filtering medium can be exposed to the air. Also conventional filtering can tend to be wasteful as wine is left behind in the filtering medium. This leads to the second reason we use Cross Flow. It’s very efficient as the enclosed filter membrane self cleans as it goes which keeps wine losses to an absolute minimum.
The only thing that beats getting fruit in the shed is getting the wine in the bottle!
We just completed our mid-year bottling which this year consisted of five wines, the 2010 Williams Crossing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and then three wines from the 2011 vintage our Curly Flat Pinot Grigio, White Pinot & Rose.
Check out the Curly Flat Winery section of the blog for a video of the Williams Crossing 2010 Pinot Noir being bottled!
When bottling we use Premium Estate Bottlers, a mobile bottling production line ingeniously housed within the length of a semi-trailer. As they come to us, our wine never leaves the premises, meaning we eliminate any risk in comprising the integrity of our wine. Also outside of the two engineers maintaining the equipment, the line is manned by our own experienced staff which of whom have the highest of standards.
All the wines from this bottling bar the 2010 Williams Crossing Pinot Noir, will be released later in the year. But they will probably be available prior to the official launch exclusively at our Cellar Door. Check the Cellar Door page on this site to see the wines that are currently on for tasting. So either way, be sure to look out for the release of these summer wines.
Our next bottling will be the 2010 Curly Flat Chardonnay this October