Let’s talk about the weather

April 20, 2019

It was 37 degrees in the shade as I gave my standard answer to a common question at the cellar door this summer: “Why did you guys choose this area to grow grapes?”

The cool climate.

While this first-time customer attempted to stifle a chuckle I tried to explain.

‘Cool climate’ is a term that gets used a lot in the wine world but not always appropriately. Having snow on dormant vines during winter doesn’t count for much when those same vines are baking in relentless heat throughout their crucial growing season. It’s the weather during ripening that really counts, and the closer to picking the more of an impact it has on the ultimate style of your wine. A few hot days after the flowers have set fruit and before veraison (when the berries start changing colour) is a good thing. It keeps the berries small, and small berries means more flavour; more concentrated, richer wines. That’s why I was able to keep a straight face when I answered that question on a hot day at the cellar door two months before we picked. But a prolonged bout of hot weather in the weeks and days leading up to picking is a different matter. That’s going to have a major influence on the expression of your wine.

We love drinking wines grown in a true cool climate. When the grapes slowly gather flavour during long days of sun but plunging night-time temperatures keep acids nice and high, you end up with wines that have a beautiful balance and purity to them. With fruit and natural acidity in perfect harmony these wines are free to tell you where they’re from.

And picking your grapes early in a warm climate to avoid excess heat is not the same as growing them in a cool climate. We’d still choose to drink these wines over the jammy, alcoholic bombs that result from overbaked fruit (often with added acid as the natural acidity has well and truly dropped out), but they do have a definite ‘greenness’ to them; they’re slightly, or sometimes very, under-ripe and have a harsher acidity that’s out of whack with the underdeveloped fruit flavour. When the fruit is either over or under ripe it’s very hard for the wine to speak of place.

But even if you’re blessed with those sunny days and cool nights as the berries change colour and inch towards ripeness, it can all go pear shaped if you get the picking date wrong. Of the hundreds of decisions to be made, from how you prune your dormant vines right through to when to sink the cork into the finished product, it’s deciding when to pluck the grapes from the vine that has the single biggest impact on the style of wine you make. Each year, once the berries have changed colour, we watch very closely as the flavours develop, the sugars slowly climb and the acids reach their peak. We only make the call when they’re in perfect balance.

Of the five vintages we’ve experienced now on The Wine Farm, the picking decision in 2019 was the trickiest yet. Now that vintage is officially over – our last major task of bottling the ‘19 pét nat completed this week and our fabulous backpackers on the road again to surf their way to WA – it’s time to reflect on the roller-coaster of a season we’ve just had, how the grapes looked at picking and therefore the style of wine we’re looking at this time around. We’ll try to make some sense of it all over the next week or so and fill you in in our next letter.

But despite the challenges of the weather this year, we’re really happy with how the wines are looking at this early stage and feel completely validated in our decision to put down roots in South Gippsland. We knew the weather was right to grow the wines we like to drink. And if South Gippsland ever becomes a warm climate, then the vast majority of other wine regions in Australia will have switched to growing wheat and sheep so we’ll still reckon we’ve made the right choice!

  • One door closes

    February 12, 2019

    This morning the last of the nets went over the vines marking the end of the back-breaking vineyard work till harvest starts in about three weeks; the cellar door is now closed until Easter; and the kids’ activities have started up again for the year (including our oldest starting school!). It truly does feel like new beginnings.

    More
  • In the thick of it

    November 18, 2018

    Until now we’ve tackled weeds in the vineyard by slashing under the vines. But when your back hurts just looking at the vineyard at the beginning of the growing season, and then your tractor starts making the same groaning noises as you, it’s time to re-assess the situation.

    More
  • A kiss on both cheeks

    October 18, 2018

    The Wine Farm Pinot gris 2017 – dry, textured and full of flavour it’s a nod to the Italians, a kiss on both cheeks with the French but 100% The Wine Farm.

    More
  • The Wine Farmer’s Wife

    September 22, 2018

    When we first bought this property and all its beautifully manicured flowerbeds we knew we wouldn’t have time to stop and smell the roses… so we pulled them all out. Then politely dismissed the gardener.

    More
  • Our pet project

    September 12, 2018

    There’s nowhere to hide with our pét-nat. With no added sugar, zero sulphur, no additions whatsoever, you are literally left with grapes in a bottle. So those grapes had better be good!

    More
  • Contains sulphites

    August 31, 2018

    Turning fruit into wine is fraught with problems. There are hordes of bad bugs and yeasts out there waiting to infiltrate your cellar, get their claws into your juice and turn it into vinegar.

    So how do you stop them? And without creating a host of new problems like headaches, breathing difficulties and worst of all, ho-hum wine…

    More
  • Stop and smell the rosé

    August 19, 2018

    A well made rosé should command as much respect as a decent white wine. Well, nearly. It should be dry, light in colour, smell of light bright berries with maybe a touch of dried herbs and a slight tannin tingle to finish. Delicious.

    More
  • A tale of three farms

    August 11, 2018

    Good wine has great flavour. Great flavour comes from beautiful fruit. And beautiful fruit comes from a healthy farm. Conventional, organic, biodynamic… what is the best way to farm grapes?

    More
  • Judgement day

    August 8, 2018

    With the first of our 2017 vintage ready to release, it’s time to offer up the fruits of our labour so you can decide for yourselves if you think our approach works.

    Introducing The Wine Farm Chardonnay 2017.

    More
  • No place like home

    July 14, 2018

    We’re always talking about the importance of wines being allowed to show ‘place’ – keeping the fruit pure to let it express the soil in which it grew. So given we’re very nearly ready to share the first of our 2017 wines with you, we thought we should tell you a bit about our place first. What’s so special about The Wine Farm?

    More
  • Daddy, you smell like soil

    June 30, 2018

    In Neil’s native South Africa, where he studied and started his career in wine, vineyards are commonly referred to as ‘wine farms’. The focus is on growing grapes and the people who grow them are farmers.

    More
  • Pure ain’t simple

    June 8, 2018

    Here at The Wine Farm we work hard to make pure wine that shows place not process.

    It’s taken us a long time to come up with those few words, and while they might not sound like much to you they mean the world to us.

    More
  • Welcome to The Wine Farm

    May 24, 2018

    We’ve just started a conversation with people who value the same sort of wine as us – wine that is pure; wine that shows place not process – and are interested in how it’s achieved. If you’d like to hear more about the wine we make and how we make it, as well as getting … Continued

    More