News & other goode stuff
Welcome to the Wangolina blog. Here is where we will be highlighting news, events and all goode stuff that has been happening around our little patch on a very ad-hoc basis.
Wow it really has been a vintage of highs and lows. Things in the wine world especially in South Australia haven't been the same since December 20, 2019. With the bushfires that ravaged the Adelaide Hills wine region and the lower than expected yields across the state due to impacts from hail, wind, frost, storms and heat it is fair to say the humble wine grape has taken its share of battering this vintage.
For us at Wangolina we were protected from some of the worst conditions as outlined above and we are fortunate that we have been able to chip in and help out our winemaking mates in various ways. Whether it be helping to source them fruit from our vineyard or others, checking on grapes during the growing season or just to be an ear for them in supporting them through these difficult times. For me this has been one of the highs of the the vintage as I have had closer contact with many friends talking shop and feeling like I have helped contribute in some small way in their road to recovery whilst being completely distant.
With the yet to be known longlasting impact of COVID19 we started our vintage with the harvest of the Frontignac for Moscato. I am truly grateful that we managed to get most of our grapes off the vine prior to the lockdowns, otherwise things would have been absolutely more complex. The only fruit left sitting as I write this is the Montepulciano and Cabernet. These grapes we will likely harvest over the next few weeks all things being equal but due to lockdowns and an agreement on minimising risk to the production crew, I will not be supervising the crush of these wines. Our wines are made in the Bird in Hand winery so it has been bittersweet that for some of my white wines in production I may not get the chance to relook at them until blending. I am extremely grateful for the guidance, wisdom and ability of Kym Milne and Dylan Lee who will watch over my wine until I can return to the winery.
Pre lock-down I was lucky to be able to grab some samples of the wines we have made so far in 2020 and I am extremely happy with the quality and I can see some really lovely wine being produced. Over the past few years there always seems to be a standout variety (or two) for the vintage and this year I really love the way the Pinot Gris looks, which for me is a total surprise to as I usually gravitate towards the Sauvignon Blanc or Grüner Veltliner. Another standout for 2020 is the Tempranillo. It is so lifted and has such delicacy of fruit. But sadly the volume of the make this year is lower than I would like so when it is released its going to go in a hurry! All of the varieties made at Wangolina are looking fairly balanced and I will be excited to see them to bottle
It has been a hectic few weeks of little sleep and big decisions however it is now nice to be coming into a more stable time. We have seen a lot of change to how we operate Wangolina, with cellar door closed then re-opened on Friday's. Staff working from home, losing our casual staff and then the introduction of a complimentary weekly delivery service to towns in the Limestone Coast. We hope to get back to whatever normal is after it is safe to do so and we look forward to sharing and showing you the 2020 wines as they are released.
The 2019 vintage is progressing well here in Mount Benson. With all of our white grapes harvested between the last week of February and the second week in march signalling a long term normal timed vintage for the region. We are still in the midst of vintage in early April with growers beginning to harvest red grapes over the coming days. The season was well founded upon a wet winter with higher than average rainfall but with average temperatures. Budburst in the Mount Benson region was later than recent years with most varieties completing budburst 1-2 weeks later realigning our harvest timing to our more traditional vintage season. A heavy rainfall event in November occurred in the flowering season, impacting Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc with these varieties showing some hen and chicken. Temperatures during the summer season were also in line with our long term averages however a heat spike in late January with an associated record hot day of 41.8 deg C, assisted to bring the white harvest forward slightly. While the rest of the state battled this heat and lack of water the cool and more importantly consistent climatic conditions of Mt Benson again reinforces the importance of it as a premium wine producing region in a changing climate.
Good bright aromatics and vibrancy are once again abundant in whites which are showing some promise for the vintage with great natural acid retention and in some cases proving to be challenging. This (natural acid retention) has also translated to the red varieties with a lower need for adjustment giving great age ability to these wines. Flavour and phenolic ripeness in red varieties is appearing to preceed the sugar ripeness giving us a much desired lower alcohol vintage.
It has been a challenge for the vignerons this year to fit back into a more traditional vintage with wineries staffing themselves based on the more compressed vintages of recent years. The hustle bustle of these more compressed vintages has been the norm and with a more spread out laconic vintage winemakers and growers have found themselves in their vineyards sampling and assessing more often. It has been a wonderfully social vintage this year for the winemakers with more time to enjoy a beer or two with the neighbours.
The growing season is progressing a little behind when compared to most other recent years at Wangolina. We've had a lot of cooler weather this spring and consequently at Christmas time the vines were about three weeks behind where they would've been in the past four years. It’s not a bad thing it just gives me more time to plan and get organised for vintage which should start in three or so weeks going on what I saw in our vineyard today when I looked through the vines and found my first signs of ripening. We have a few bunches of Cabernet Sauvignon that are going through verasion - which is when the berries soften and turn from hard green dudes into soft red tasty dudes.
The Wirrega Vineyard where we source some fruit from is always a step ahead of us, it's warmer there (near Bordertown) and so the vines tend to do things earlier. Plus the varieties we source from Wirrega are earlier ripening varieties. I predict that we will kick off with Frontignac (the variety for our Moscato) in the third week of February, stay tuned to see if I am right!
This time of year is also about protecting what we have achieved so far. With January feeling like a much cooler month with more rainy days we haven't had to irrigate often but we have had to be vigilant to ensure we don’t get any mildews growing (BOO to mildew!).
This time of year we like to make sure that there is enough sunlight and wind moving around to keep the bunches dry so we have been out in the vineyard leaf plucking and trimming. We trim most of our vines to keep the canopy in one row from shading the bunches in the next row. Leaf plucking only occurs in our Sauvignon Blanc as it has a big canopy and lots of leaves that can shade bunches hiding in behind. By pulling these leaves off we can get more sunlight in which helps the fruit have better flavour.
On the winemaking side of things this time of year it is about putting the ducks in a row to make sure vintage is going to be as smooth and slick as possible. Currently we are doing a final racking of the 2016 reds. This is where we take the wine out of its barrel, then clean the barrel to remove any yeast sediments that stick to the oak and then put it back into barrels making sure they are full, happy and then safely tucked away until the end of crushing.
It’s also time to double check the yields in the vineyard and make sure I have enough barrels to hold next year’s red wine and getting my plan in place- it’s like writing the recipe for this year’s crushing. I make sure I have a good idea of how many tonnes we are going to crush, when we are likely to crush them and then a plan of the other winemaking type things. Like what yeast we will use, what temperatures we ferment at, what we want to do when the fermentation is finishing. It’s like setting our goals for how we want vintage to go and then kicking them. So fingers crossed for another terrific vintage at Wangolina.