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.