Chateau Tanunda, a busy ER at harvest time
I’ve never actually visited a winery while they’re in the middle of harvest so it was fun and exciting to be there. Dodging tractors, forklifts, hose pipes, wet floors and empty barrels while de-stemming, crushing and fermenting is going on literally right under your nose makes it a whole lot more exciting then the usual “…and here is where we keep the barrels…” Although I still did spy roomfuls of barrels. *Geek Alert* I never get tired of the sight and smell of resting barrels.
My guide was the effervescent senior winemaker of Ch. Tanunda, Stewie Bourne. A bundle of energy who came bouncing into the tasting room and immediately offered to make us all espressos, (although I don’t think he needed another one) before we visited the vats.
Stewie compared the winery to a hospital emergency room and he and his staff are the ER staff. Their job is to take the car crash victim (the ripe grapes) from the vineyard and get them in the vats (IC) as soon as possible, hopefully they make it through IC and then off to the wards (tanks) where they can rest up before being discharged to the general public. An funny but apt metaphor for harvest.
The winery was originally founded in the 1890′s and the ceiling of the huge tasting room is still fitted with the original wooden beams that came over as ballast with Australian settlers. At Chateau Tanunda they make wine in the traditional way, with open vat fermentation and minimal intervention. When the grapes come in,they only de-stem them but don’t crush them at first so that the result is lifted fruit and soft tannins. They have hydraulic presses which are programmed to exert just the right amount of pressure during press, not too much, not too little. The aim is to produce wines that are authentic but not aggressive.
While we were there, Stewie literally plunged into the open vats and came out with a glass full of fermenting grape juice. He had a couple of vats of shiraz on the go which we tried in order to compare and taste the vineyards. Even at this early stage in the fermentation process, we could taste the difference of each vineyard location. We tasted the Scholz shiraz in vat and compared it with another grower’s. Same grape, same process but different flavours – the Scholz grapes, harvested from vineyards on clay and sandy soils were already showing loads black fruits, black cherry, spices and plums where as the other shiraz, from hard stony ground and clay had a lot more red and black fruits, red cherry and sweet spices. A great example of the various terroirs of the region.
And great fun to see Stewie sticking is arm straight into the vats and coming out with a handful of grapes and juice (to get back to the post after clicking on the link below, use your browser back button):
I asked Stewie to explain his Barossa shiraz in 6 seconds, here’s his take (to get back to the post after clicking on the link below, use your browser back button):
Apologies for the links but that’s the only way I can get the Vine videos on the blog.
A big thanks to Chateau Tanunda, their Sr. Winemaker Stuart Bourne and Barossa Valley grower, Anthony Schulz who introduced me to Stewie and, showed me his Barossa.