Monday, 15 November 2010
It's not difficult to describe the emotions that we were going through, we were quite quiet in the car as we drove off the motorway. To be honest there was more trepidation than excitement.
Up until this point you really can't be absolutely certain what your land is going to produce. You know that in theory it is a great site and also that the grapes were ripe and balanced but every vineyard brings it's own distinctive charateristcs that come through in the wine. In Burgundy a Grand cru vineyard can be 200 yards away from a simple Villages plot that sells for a quarter of the price. Over the years (centuries) owners have been able to track in detail which site does best.
This was the time to see for the first time what, if anything, would stand out. We were tasting with Martin Fowke who has a better perspective than us as he has a hand in wines from 30-30 vineyards each year.
Making sparkling wine, most producers are aiming for very neutral base wines but the best, need a bit of character if your wine is to stand out.
The verdict - first lots of qualifications, the wine has just stopped fermenting, it's slightly cloudy, it is still on its lees but....... it is good. Potentially it is very good.
There are three tanks. One is predominantly Chardonnay - ours has a fresh mineral gunflint edge to the aroma and is very clean to taste. The Pinot Blend is slightly rounder and richer with a very subtle fruit aroma. The still wine blend of all three varietals is softer again but still as dry and crisp as something like a good Chablis.
The thing that all three have in common is something that is hard to explain but wine makers describe it as structure. For example, there are wines from vineyards with the same varieties with the same levels of sugar and acidity that are differently balanced to ours, perhaps not as elegant or having the potential to age so well. I have been cynical about "Terroir" how the land affects the wine but, Martin is clear that our site is certainly contributing something beyond our own inputs.
So, we have something very good to work with - now it is down to us to make the right winemaking decisions so as not to mess it up! The first one is that we are going to buy a French barrel which isn't to give an oaky flavour but to allow a proportion of the wine to breathe and open up (controlled oxidation). Beyond this - there'll be no messin around!