Thursday, September 14, 2006

So, here we all are

Summer is almost over and, almost two years on, our wines are bottled and just waiting to be labelled. We road tested them at the fabulous vivat bachus ( restaurat near Smithfield market. With all due humility and with 100% bias we have to say, they are everything we wanted. We came out of the restaurant with smiles on our faces ( a bottle each at lunch time will do that). The Chenin is classy stuff with a slight oak influence but predominantly fresh mineral fruit flavours - refreshing and crisp. The Shiraz is remarkably balanced for a wine that is so young but you can see that it has a long life ahead, if it lasts that long before its drunk. It is being shipped next week and arives in the UK in the middle of October. We had some obscenely decadent 3 litre bottles made as well as some magnums and some packed in wooden boxes. the waiting is killing us - patience was never one of our virtues. We are planning on having a bit of a party to celebrate its arrival, probably somewhere is West London

Too much choice can be a bad thing

In March 2006 we went back over to the valley to take a look at how the wines were developing and to hit a few bars with Zakkie. We had our six barrels but Zakkie also had 12 0r more alternative wines that we could add if we wanted to. Shiraz with everything!! - shiraz viognier, late picked shiraz, whole berry barrel fermented shiraz (strange but wonderful), old oak, all afternoon we add 10cl of this and remove 10cl of that - Zakkie stands there with the patience of a saint while the two Engelsmen mess about pretending they know what they are doing. Whats the film scene where two blokes taste loads of wine and progressively get the glasses more and more mixed up and end up falling over drunk? Not quite that bad but, there was a bit of palette fatigue towards the end. Finally we have the blend - an afternoons work - the fruit of our labours, we taste it against the original six barrels - and decide that we prefer the ones we started with and don't need anything else added. Each barrel of the six tasted slightly different but when you put them together the wine is big (15% alcohol!) but balanced. The initial impression is of spicy dark fruits like a summer pudding with cinnamon added. You can taste the oak at the moment as the wine was a vanilla note but this will fade over time.


Not that we ever come to blows but, it has to be said, the two of us have different tastes in wine. Richard likes fuller wines with lots of fruit whilst I go for more of the dry, light wines. OK, he would say skinny and thin. In this case we went for it - seven brand new French Oak barrels which immediately doubled costs and, they made us pay up front! This might seem a strange decision considering neither of us likes oaky wines but when you have intensely flavoured quality grapes barrel aging definately adds complexity and softens out harsh tannins. On poor quality it just gives a taste of plank and not much else. For cheap wine, this is exactly what winemakers add plank or oak chips.
The other decision that we took was to try not to mess about with what we had - no filtering or finning, just the occsional racking off any sediment to keep it clear and that's about it. The major reason for filtering is that the wine is more stable but what you gain in stability you lose in flavour. One result of this will be that the wine in the bottle will carry on evolving interesting flavours and may throw a sediment which would put some people off but we figured that we would know most of the people it was destined for anyway.