It’s the dream of many to buy a cute little vineyard somewhere and start making wine, good wine hopefully. It’s the sort of hobby that sends people broke with high entry costs and often inferior wine produced. But oh what a joy to drink something you’ve made yourself, even though all your friends just want to spit rather than swallow.
The sensible way to make wine is not to own a vineyard. All you need is access to good grapes and a winemaker’s equipment. Or have a stack of your own in a shed somewhere and beg/borrow the rest.
And that’s how I found myself on a recent chilly Saturday afternoon in a coldstore rented from the local co-operative in Harcourt helping wine writer and author of the The Age/SMH Good Australian Wine Guide Nick Stock (who tells me his website is coming soon) finish the last of his vintage.
Nick makes about 1,000 cases a year (if my terrible maths is correct) which isn’t a huge amount. For that you don’t need the Saddam-Hussein’s-weapons-of-mass-destruction-look-alike operation which is all stainless steel hoppers, pipes, tubes and process automation. In fact there’s not much difference between this type of wine making and the Saddam-Hussein’s-weapons-of-mass-destruction-look-alike operation that you’d make VB or any other mass market beer with. Or any chemical really.
Back in the cold store and I’m already spattered with bright pink shiraz juice from what basically are giant washing-up bowls containing several thousand litres (and tonnes) or so of grapes and liquids, which are covered with a tarp and a layer of carbon dioxide so it doesn’t go off. This is much more simple winemaking than the WOMD version – the giant plastic containers, a few stainless steel vats and barrels, some new oak; some old; some 225l; others 500l. And a pump.
The philosophy is minimal intervention. That means whole bunches with stalks (many wineries remove them), natural yeasts and no additives.
First off Nick plays the winemakers’ version of Tetris with a forklift shifting various-sized barrels a round to make room for a second giant wine-stained washing-up bowl in which to pump the wine.
This is essentially the process: Get a a few tonnes of good grapes, and shiraz was particularly good in 2011. Dump mostly whole bunches in a giant washing up bowl. Squeeze a bit and/or stomp around on them barefoot. Leave for a while.
Usually the grapes may be left for ten days or so. These were sitting there for 29. The idea is to introducing smooth glycerol characteristics to the wine and add character.
Pump the juice from container A to container B. Press what is left over. Return tarps to large plastics bowls. Pump in carbon dioxide.
Next we top up all the various barrels, taste each one for the heck of it, and wash any spillage down with a sulphurous water.
Wash various buckets and bits and pieces. Accidentally smash wine glasses. And play winemaker Tetris again.
Oh and the wine? It was utterly gorgeous even though nowhere near maturity. I’d drink it now but I can’t wait to see what it’s like after its secondary fermentation (malolactic).
If you want to taste Nick’s wines they are:
Archer – includes two wines, one Archer and one parcel bottled separately as EAGLE EYE. Both wines made from shiraz.
Bespoke Bros. – rosé, shiraz and a blended red monastrell shiraz.
Twofold – made up the road at Bress, this is a collaboration between Nick and his brother.
Solita – a very small (700 bottles, 40 magnums) production of Adelaide Hills Nebbiolo in collaboration with Chris Ringland. They are also about to bottle their first little make of carignan under this project.