Log In / Join Now

Our First Ferment of 2009

Barossa Valley Estate winemaker Stuart Bourne's first Chardonnay harvest of 2009 is fermenting.
2009 Southern Harvest Winemakers
See Also

Posted: Feb 9, 2009 1:29pm ET

By Stuart Bourne

Posted by Stuart Bourne

G’day again from Barossa Valley Estate, Stuey Bourne here for an update on harvest in the Barossa Valley.

Last week saw the first crush of the year come in—Chardonnay for table wine. The juices from the pressing were racked over the weekend and inoculated with yeast, and now they're officially ferments! We normally start with the Chardonnay, and reds will follow suit in a couple of week’s time, going by how they are looking just now.

BVE grower Bevan Roennfeldt watches over his 2009 grapes.
The fruit we took in last week is destined for the E-Minor Chardonnay, some of which will eventually make its way over to North America. For those who are interested, it went 12.5 Baume (22.5 Brix) when it was pressed to tank. Acid levels look good, the juice is clean and fresh, with excellent flavor and length. Stylewise, we will be fermenting to dryness, in cool, refrigerated conditions; a little bit will be oak-matured for a couple of months (for blending back into the unwooded portion), so the final blend should be fresh, dry, crisp and clean, with big citrus, a touch of fruit salad and just a bare whiff of French oak. Yum. Built for sunny days and fresh seafood.

I will have more on the ferments later, as they progress. The photo of the fruit going into the crusher, with the old bloke in the hat standing to the right of the truck, is a great story. The chap’s name is Bevan Roennfeldt, who has been a BVE grower for many years. He is the fifth generation of Barossa Roennfeldts on that vineyard property, since his ancestors migrated here and set up the farm in the 1850s, around the time the Barossa Valley was first settled by the Germanic Lutherans. His son Stuart and his family, who are sixth generation, farm the land with him. To see all of their hard work over a full year in the vineyard—from last year’s pick through pruning, budburst, growing and fruit maturing—finally come to fruition with that one great day of harvest is part of the whole beautiful experience that is being a winemaker in the Barossa Valley.

BVE was originally set up by a co-op of growers in the 1980s, many of whom are still with us as both growers and shareholders in the winery. It's a wonderful sight to see fresh-picked Chardonnay falling into the crusher. See how vibrant green the fruit is! Straight from the crusher, into the press, and out pops that fresh, crisp juice that soon will bubble quietly in the cellar.

The stalks are recycled after crushing.
Even though we have had some heat of late, I think it was a smart idea to take the fruit in whilst it was still fresh. This week we'll clean up the last few picks of the white grapes. Weather should be much cooler and milder than the last couple of weeks have been. Thanks to Mother Nature for looking out for me!

The photo of the stalks coming out of the crusher is worth a mention. We collect this material, catch it in our beautiful old Bedford truck (more in a moment) and mulch and compost it on our site. That way we recycle this green organic material and use it for mulching our gardens and surrounds (we're always saving water when you live in such a dry land as Oz). It goes back into the earth, from whence it came. Nice.

The old Bedford truck is in the last photo. It’s an absolute cracker of a beast. 1950s Bedford, solid steel, bit dodgy in the wiring department but starts first time, every time. In a winery that prides itself on being state of the art, and using old techniques with modern technology, here we are using a truck that is quite a lot older than me. They sure as hell don’t make them like that anymore. Got to admit, it can still be a right pig to drive, when you are used to more modern vehicular modes of transport. But I wouldn’t swap it for all the beer in the world, and from an Aussie, that means a lot!

Old equipment and new technology in harmony
That’s it for now, off to check on new juices and see a few vineyards that are getting close to picking. I still think it will be a couple of weeks before the first Shiraz crush. I have finally had my stomach settle down after eating way too much chili last Monday night watching the Super Bowl replay, Down Under style. Lashings of chili on the tortillas and fajitas, washed down with gallons of cold beer, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt 'coz it was still quite warm at night, and seeing one of the best Super Bowl games I can remember. Well done to Pittsburgh, but my heart went out to the Cardinals in the last minute, when they realized their dream was over. Not just God loves the underdog; nearly every Aussie was rooting for them because they had the first Aussie ever to make it to a Super Bowl playing for them, and our national pride runneth over for them.


Stuey B and the BVE crew

Chris Churchill
Toronto, Ontario —  February 10, 2009 3:12pm ET
Stuey, it's Chubba, not the umpire writing. Is it difficult to introduce innovative practices in an area where growers are so long established and know their land and vines so well?
Stuart Bourne
February 11, 2009 4:32pm ET
Hi Chubba, Great to hear from you. Trust you are still putting the puck in the back of the net, while we chill out at the cricket down under. As to viticulture, what we are finding now is that as the next generation of growers take over from their parents, on the family vineyards, they are slowly introducing the more mordern, newer techniques to much of their viticulture. There is still a very solid core of older fashioned growers, still very traditional, but many are now moving forward towards the newer style of viti. Sustainability is the key phrase for all of them, regardless of practices. Ensuring that they pass the land to the next generation, in better condition than when they inherited it. Thanks for the support, Chubba.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.