Cheers, Thanks and Farewell from Barossa Valley
Posted: Apr 28, 2009 12:46pm ET
Posted by Stuart Bourne
On a cold and wet afternoon in the Barossa Valley, I sit back and ponder the vintage 2009 that has now come and gone. This will be my last entry, and first up I want to say what a pleasure it has been to provide you all with ongoing updates from Barossa Valley Estate, from the first fruit samples from our vineyards this year before harvest commenced to the last ferment ticking through in barrel. The comments received along the way have been very supportive, for which I also say thanks.
The fact that it has been raining rates a quick mention. Many parts of Australia lie stricken by ongoing drought, and we in the Barossa Valley have also suffered from below average rainfalls for a while now. Although this often means small crops, which also often make very concentrated wine, the need for water is always there. South Australia, the state in which we lie, is the driest state in the driest continent on the face of the earth. To have gotten to the end of vintage and to see a breaking fall rain of almost 4 inches over a four-day period soaking into the parched ground is a blessing fallen from the sky. Rejoicing aplenty has been the order of the day for all farmers here. And it couldn’t have been timed any better—the harvest is over, rain falls, and the broadacre farmers (large-scale farming of a single crop here in Australia) now prepare their fields to be sown to the winter cereal or legume crops. I’ve made a few references along the way to Mother Nature, and if you are reading this dear lady, thank you so much for the gift of rain. (Followups in the next three months have been requested, so please check your e-mail! Haha.)
So where are we up to now? The first photo explains it all. It is of me in the barrel hall, snuggled up next to a bunch of barrel stacks that contain the malolactic fermenting red wines of 2009, that were picked, crushed and pressed over the past two to three months. They are all currently resting, maturing, changing and evolving in lovingly crafted oak barrels, biding their time before coming out one day to be blended up and bottled for further maturation prior to release. The barrel hall we have here is incredible, simple and effective. It's made mostly of very thick concrete sandwich panels which create underground cellarlike temperature and humidity conditions, but above the ground for ease of getting in and out. With a temperature fluctuation from winter’s minimum of around 32° F first thing in the winter’s morning to a summer daytime extreme of over 100° F during the occasional heat waves, this building holds stable temperature all year round, thus giving us a beautiful environment in which to mature our wines, irrespective of the weather outside.
|The BVE barrel hall is a vast repository of maturing wines.
To wrap up the 2009 harvest in the Barossa Valley for you, I think it will definitely go down as a very solid year for us here. Timing wise we were never under any pressure to have to rush things. As vineyards ripened, we were able to pick them and crush to fermentor with ease, and there were no capacity issues. Although it may not in time rate as highly as 2002 and 2005, I still see some amazing vibrance of fruit expression, soft and rich tannins in the reds, great length of flavor and a smooth finish. It's still early, but if I had to rate the year on a scale of 1 to 10, it would be an 8.5. Just on that, the beauty of this region here is the consistency of vintage variation, from year to year. As we are a warm climate, typically what you may call Californian, the variance from year to year is nowhere near as great as can be seen in much cooler climates. To use a favorite expression of mine, "it always gets ripe in the Barossa, my job is merely to determine which day." Some warmer years we pick early against a calendar average, because that is when full ripeness falls, and in cooler years we pick later against the calendar average, because that is when the full ripeness falls. In all my years in the Barossa, I have never been faced with a year that we did not achieve full ripeness, before the season turned from fall to winter. Too easy, isn’t it!?
Here are some brief notes on varieties from 2009:
• Shiraz: Another crackingly good year. Solid color and depth. Soft tannins, concentrated flavor, excellent length. Very vibrant, with full ripeness spectrum of cherry, plum, spice, pepper and mocha. Excellent acid structure will ensure longevity in the cellar.
• Cabernet Sauvignon: Full ripeness without all the green herbals. Not too minty, which is good. Solid tannin spine with excellent length. Deeply colored and rich.
• Chardonnay: Picked early for citrus freshness, and it’s there. Excellent spine of acid; mouthwateringly dry. Crisp finish with all the citrus, tropical flavors and a little fruit salad. Low on the melon and peach, which for our style is very good.
• We also mucked about and experimented with some Riesling, Viognier, Tempranillo and Grenache, all in very small lots, and one day if you ever see them, I think you will be delighted.
The past 12 weeks have been another incredible journey in the life of Barossa Valley Estate. You have had a chance to also meet all of our crew over this blog, to see that it takes an incredible team of people, with many and varied skills, across all sorts of disciplines, to make what will eventually become a bottle of E&E Black Pepper Shiraz, or an Ebenezer Shiraz, or an E-Minor Shiraz or Chardonnay, or some of the smaller lots we make exclusively for our little Cellar Door tasting facility.
To all of our team, who have again pulled together as one, faced the challenges of vintage and being a farming crew, and have come out the other side with some beautiful wines to show for it, some of which are up to four years away from release to the consuming public, I say thank you and congratulations.
|So long! Cold beer, good food and great wine to all of you!
To all who have gone down this road with us, monitoring our progress through this blog, I also say thank you. Lastly, for the people around the world who continue to support our little winery and drink the famous wines of the Barossa Valley, thank you to you too.
The last photo sums it all up, it’s simply me waving you all farewell from the barrel hall at Barossa Valley Estate, tucked up with the wines of 2009. Once more, and finally, I wish you all the very best, the coldest of beers, the best of food and the greatest of wines, shared with only the best of family and friends. In a world that some days seems a bit wonky and topsy-turvy, remember that somewhere tucked away in a little part of South Australia we call the Barossa Valley, there are a whole bunch of very passionate people making sure the glass of wine you have gives you a sense of place, culture, variety, people and most importantly, a simple pleasure.
Cheers and farewell for now from Stuey B and all the crew at Barossa Valley Estate