After a first experience at Binet Family Wineswinery in the oldest vineyard area of Australia, here I am catapulted into the region that made this continent famous among wine lovers.
ROAD TO THE BAROSSA VALLEY
As soon as the harvest ended in Hunter Valley, New South Wales, I rushed between Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd of March, in the southern part of the country. The journey was really long, over 16 hours by car crossing the desert, arid flatlands and along endless roads, in the company of Paolo, an Italian friend who has been working in the wine world for over 8 years. And here I am, in the Barossa Valley, ready to re-start this tiring but heady experience.
This area is a wine center that produces labels with more structured and full-bodied notes, with balsamic and recognizable aromas, especially in Shiraz, the king of wines in Australia. A bit like Sangiovese or Barbera in Italy.
I would start by telling you about the territory and the climate I met to better understand the farming system with which I had to relate. The weather conditions are dry, or rather dry, all year round, so irrigation plays a fundamental role. The hills are very gentle and elongated, with a maximum height of 400 meters above sea level.
Summers I would call it really hot, several times we have touched 45 degrees, and for this reason, the grapes at the time of harvest have sugar peaks which leads the final product to reach really high alcoholic degrees, between 18% and 19%. To put a table wine on the market, they were forced to change the regulation, which today allows the cellars to add water during the winemaking process and reduce the alcohol content to reasonable levels, between 13 and 15%.
On the other hand, the production of fortified wines and liqueur wines in Barossa Valley are excellent. As you can imagine, this area is known for “aggressive” and pungent flavors, which are certainly not afraid to show their personalities. From the landscape, we can now move to the winemaking process.
I found my second Australian job in a company called Two Hands Wines. The trademark is, precisely, the production of excellent Shiraz (over 80%), using grapes from 6 neighboring wine-growing regions. The vinification process is quite similar for all the grapes and highlights the terroir from which they are harvested, as well as the different techniques used in the cellar.
A linear procedure is followed without too many complications. The grapes arrive at their destination and are de-stemmed, with the subsequent introduction into stainless steel fermenters. At the oenologist’s discretion, some portions of grapes will be left with the stalk to give greater complexity and a herbaceous taste to the wine.
Once the grapes have been placed in the tank, tartaric acid is added to correct the PH and water to lower the concentration of sugars. Let it rest overnight, the next day it begins with fermentation adding active dry yeasts. After mixing the must for a few minutes we are ready to start. In the following days, pumpovers will be carried out for 10/15 minutes twice a day. The must is fished from the bottom of the tank and, making it resurface above the hat of grapes that will have been created, we guarantee the right ventilation and movement of the yeasts. This activity is repeated for about two weeks, with the addition of various nutrients at the beginning and at the end of the fermentation, in order not to stress the must, until the complete transformation into wine.
Following the hydraulic pressing and moving in storage tanks, where the first fermentation ended. The wine is finally transferred to barriques or wooden tonneaux, only French, to begin malolactic fermentation and thus complete its rest for the next 18 months.
At this point, the winemaker will decide based on the characteristics he wishes to give the wine as an aging process to follow. In some cases, they also propose “blending” with wines refined in cement or steel. After this long work, the wine is sent to a company for bottling and labeling. The wine will then rest in the bottle and after the right time spent in the bottle, it will be ready for sale.
This new experience has allowed me to know a much wider and more complex reality in management, compared to my beloved Cella Monte. Two Hands Wine, processes around 1,000 tons of grapes per year. With 8 international employees working during the harvest and 3 full time Australians in the cellar only. They sell in more than 50 countries in the world and over time they are building a real empire of South Australia’s Shiraz.
Ah, they extended my contract and so when the Easter holidays are over I will stay here again for a couple of months. I expect less stressful days compared to those during the harvest, after which I will finish my year with a nice trip to the north.
See you on the next episode!