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The Dawn of the 2009 Barossa Shiraz Harvest

Stuart Bourne is bringing in the first bins of 2009 Barossa Valley Shiraz this week.
2009 Southern Harvest Winemakers
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Posted: Feb 19, 2009 1:49pm ET

By Stuart Bourne

Posted by Stuart Bourne

Hello again to everyone from Stuey Bourne and the crew from Barossa Valley Estate. Week three of vintage is going very well and this week sees a couple of big milestones achieved.

Firstly, we have pretty much picked out all of the white grapes, which are all now fermenting as fresh juices in the cellar. I am very happy with the quality of the Chardonnay we have taken in this year. It will probably make a slightly lower alcohol wine than in previous years (not a bad thing at all), as we achieved our ripeness profiles at lower sugar levels this year. Acids are all fresh and firm, citrus flavors abound and so far the ferments have behaved very well, dropping their sugar levels as the yeast turns sugar to alcohol in a very orderly manner, under cool, refrigerated conditions in tank. Some of the first-picked whites are nearing the end of their fermentation, and early indications are very promising. All of our whites will be fermented out until bone dry, i.e. all of the sugar in the juice will be fermented into alcohol, leaving no sugar behind, so they are truly dry wines.

Why do we ferment our whites at a lower temperature than our reds, I hear you all scream? Well, I’m glad you asked. White juices fermenting require cooler conditions for fermentation than our reds, in order to have a very controlled, slow fermentation and to retain all of the freshness and lifted fruit you have come to expect in these wines when bottled. Our reds can ferment at a higher temperature than the whites, as the color extraction from the skins, the tannin structure of the resultant wine and the behavior of the different yeast strains we use for reds against whites all mean we still get a controlled ferment, but a better and more full-bodied result for the reds than if we fermented them cooler. Some regions use cooler red fermentation regimes, and techniques such as cold soaking, where crushed reds are held cold for a period of time before warming them up for fermentation, but these techniques are probably more suited to cooler viticultural regions than the Barossa Valley, where it is still a relatively warm region: "Warm ferment, warm fruit expression." When you are snuggled up on the couch in winter and it is freezing cold outside, with a glass of Barossa Valley Shiraz, you will understand more clearly what we have done.

Secondly, this week brings the first Shiraz harvest for the year for our winery. Some wineries had already started picking Shiraz before us, but Wednesday this week saw our first Shiraz delivery. A couple of photos to help explain: The first photo is the sunrise on the day of the first Shiraz delivery. The photo does not do justice to the colors of the sunrise, as we were all at the winery, patiently waiting for the first Shiraz to arrive. It was machine picked in the middle of the night, to retain freshness, and would be brought in just after sunrise. Standing on the weighbridge, watching a golden glow appear on the horizon that marks the first Shiraz for the year is always a beautiful thing.

The next photo is of the truck that brought the Shiraz in, being weighed in on our weighbridge. OK, OK, it’s just a truck, but those grape bins on the back are holding that magical first delivery of the variety of grape our region is world famous for, so that’s why it is such a special truck. Those bins on the back had only just been loaded up, straight from the back of a tractor, just down the road at one of our grower’s vineyards.

This photo is of the bins being emptied into the crusher bin. Have a look at the color of not only the fruit, but the juice that is running out of it. When they come in and there is already color in the juice, you know it is a good sign. Remember that the juice of the red grapes we make wine from is a white juice (like nearly all red-wine grapes), it is only because the grapes are fermented in contact with their skins, that the color is extracted in to the juice, which gives the color of the wine after fermentation. More later on how the fermentation is going, but mate, what a day to behold, the birth of the first 2009 Barossa Valley Shiraz. You little beauty!

Next up, time to introduce a couple more of the clan.
Assistant Winemaker Will Thompson

The young chap with the dark beard in the tasting room holding a glass is none other than Will Thompson, our assistant winemaker. Will joined us in 2002, so is rolling around for his eighth vintage at Barossa Valley Estate. He is a great bloke, very easygoing and relaxed, but as a New Zealander by birth, is still convinced that Australia is just merely the West Island of New Zealand! Come rugby and cricket season in winter, the Australia vs. New Zealand rivalry pokes its head out and the banter that flies around is hilarious. Will is very passionate about his wines, and has worked both locally at other Aussie wineries, plus a few stints overseas. He is also working hard on his golf swing outside of vintage, but that’s a project for another day. The shot of him is while we were tasting juice samples to determine when exactly we should be picking some of our growers' blocks.
Grapegrower Harry Schulz

The chap with the white goatee standing next to his truck is Harry Schulz, hence the RH and ML Schulz painted on the side of the truck. Harry is another of our fifth generation Barossa grapegrowers, who has been with us for years and years. We take not only Shiraz from him, but also a touch of Sémillon, plus some Cabernet Sauvignon. Harry’s place is to the north of the Barossa Valley, and it is always a pleasure to meet up with him, shoot the breeze and hear what he has to say. There is an enormous wealth of knowledge, history and some very funny stories to be heard when you spend time with Harry. It’s people like Harry and his wife, Michelle, that make the Barossa Valley what it is.

Before signing out, some notes on the weather: After the heat spell we had a couple of weeks ago when we saw perhaps more heat than we would have preferred, the temperatures have dropped back to much more pleasant conditions for the week just gone. The forecast for the next week is looking straight out of a viticulture text book—mild to warm days, dry with no rain forecast, and cool to mild nights. Giddyup then, and bring it on!

More Shiraz booked in for next week, which we are really looking forward to, so when next we catch up, I’ll have more on early red ferments, how the whites have panned out at end of ferment, a few more faces to meet, and perhaps even news that while out in the north of the valley, with my golf clubs just happening (???) to be in the back of the SUV (What the hell are they doing in there?!), that I took some mental-health time and watched a few vineyards from the dry oasis that is the Barossa Golf Club. The way the swing feels at the moment—Ssshhh, I sent a few stray golf balls out over the vineyards the other morning while no one was watching!—I definitely need it. Strewth! (That's Aussie slang for “it’s the truth," and also used as a polite expletive …)

Until then, happy trails, purple hands, great food and wine, and keep the comments coming. And to everyone around the world who has supported the Victorians after the horrific bushfires, it does not go unnoticed back here. Thank you.


Stuey B and all the Barossa Valley Estate crew

Washington DC —  February 20, 2009 11:25am ET
Mr. Bourne,I find your analysis and insight to be the best on this board. It's like working the harvest with you side by side. I love Australian wines and found the best wines to be from Barossa. I bought your E&E Black Pepper Shiraz before it was listed as a top 100 wine. Shouldn't that make you a top 100 wine maker? If not you should be demanding a pay increase! Thank you for your sideline critique of the harvest. I look forward to your 2009 "passion in the bottle" when released. You are the best!
Faith Wells
February 21, 2009 2:12pm ET
Dear Stuart:I love your passion. I can hardly wait to taste your '09 chardonnay.Riccardo
Stuart Bourne
March 1, 2009 4:02pm ET
To Dan in Washington, thank you for your lovely comments. The pay increase may have to wait a while, seeing how the world is going finacially. Ha Ha.To Riccardo, your support is very welcome and wait till you try the 09 Chardonnay, the early signs are it will be an absolute belter!

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