Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Marlborough - the 2013 Vintage

The team at Matua are young and dynamic winemakers and I am made to feel very welcome as I meet them all over a tasting of early-picked 2013 whites. It is a very small world: chief winemaker Chris Darling and I actually worked together on the cellar floor at Hardy’s in Perth Australia some 13 years ago and now here we are together again for the vintage. However, we’re now running the harvest from the control tower: the tasting room!

If that wasn’t coincident enough, I was told we were expecting the Babich winemaking consultant any minute. And who should walk in but James Graham the Kiwi winemaker. I know James ever so well from his yearly winemaker harvest role in France at Domaine Cousergues in Beziers: the vineyard home of my white Vent de Folie Vermentino!

James is the consultant winemaker for Babich and used to work at this very winery before current owners Matua purchased the property. Babich still have a crush contract here until their new winery is built so we’ll be making the Babich wines for James too!

James and I have walked many times up and down the rows of vines in the French Midi, my territory, so it was fantastic to do the same in his back yard!  We went out to have a look  at the Babich Cowslip Vineyard that’s situated over on the base slopes of the Wither Hills. The Sauvignon Blanc here is UNBELIEVABLE. The actual grape picked from the vine is explosive tasting just like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine does in the bottle! I must have eaten about a 100 berries each time thinking “wow it can’t be true, I’ll try another, it’s true, amazing!” If you want to get an idea of this flavour sensation get hold of some of our Shingle Peak NZ Sav B; it’s made here by Matua.

I am on the day shift which is roughly 12 hours, but the winery runs 24/7. Matua is a big winery and crushes around 25,000 tonnes of grapes and I’ll be looking after some 3,500 ton of Pinot Noir so it means careful planning and constant monitoring.  My cellar team is led by Italian Lorenzo: a cheeky chappy, energetic and winery-wise cellar supervisor. He not only fills me in on all the wine movements and grapes that have arrived but the cellar gossip too!

It’s New Zealand and they’re obsessed with saying “gotta haav yaaa hii veez awn mate”. Roughly translated that means “for safety, high visibility clothing must be worn at all times”! So I was issued with my ‘hii veez’ clothing pretty sharpish.

The rest of the team are Chileans; Rodrigo, Marcello and Eduardo who speak little English. Luckily my winery Spanish I learnt working for a year in Chile has come in very handy indeed!

The red winery has open-top fermenters so we can observe the cap (floating skins) to check visually and give a sniff to check all is ok. There’s plenty of room to work and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into harvest and filling these vats!

Tonight the first Pinot Noir is being picked and so yet another madness of harvest begins!

No comments: