It’s one of my favourite times of the year when I get to sample the wine which has been sitting patiently for 10 months in new and used French Oak.
You always hope for the best, but the truth is you never really know precisely how they’ll turn out. A lot can happen during those months and one expects there to be taste variation between different barrels of different ages, cooperage and even the forest from where the oak was sourced; not to mention subtle differences between clones and vineyard aspect. Throw in the variations of an open fermentation and the possibilities are endless.
So, before we blend the wine components into tank, we have a blind tasting and deduce which barrels are stand out and which perhaps are marching to a different beat.
It’s an exciting, but also fearful moment as you really get the opportunity to see what all the hard work and patience is all about.
This year we had ten barrels to sample (one year we had 64!). One of the principle aims is to see if there are vast variations between the barrels. If this is the case, I would take the top ones for the ‘Uley Vineyard’ Pinot Noir (formally our Reserve Pinot Noir) and blend the rest into a non-Reserve release (formally the Bonython).
In a perfect winery universe I’d like all barrels to become the ‘Uley Vineyard’ Pinot Noir.
Fortunately it appears, certainly for this vintage, I am living in a perfect winery universe. The variations across all ten were very slight. Colour, perfume, length and tannin structure were all fairly similar. Some slight acidity differences but in all very promising notes – as such all will go to the 2017 ‘Uley Vineyard’ Pinot Noir.
Quite a relief to see the tasting produce such excellent results and I look forward to seeing how all ten work together – balancing any subtle differences or disputes they may have had as individuals.