Our White Vintage Draws to a Close

Our White Vintage Draws to a Close

As we reach the middle of autumn, our final white grapes have arrived at the winery, bringing the first stage of our white vintage to a close. Yet as one stage ends, another is ready to begin. So once the grapes have all been picked and crushed, what happens next on the white winemaking calendar?

The most immediate task is to make sure all the juice finishes its fermentation into wine. We continue to taste every ferment daily to check its progress. Once a wine finishes fermentation (which is when the yeast has converted all the sugar from the grapes into alcohol), it will either be ‘cleaned up’ (removing the yeast lees to give a clear wine) or left on those lees to develop a more textured mouthfeel.

Generally, delicate aromatic varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling will be cleaned up straight away to give fine, elegant finished wines, whereas fuller bodied varieties such as Chardonnay may spend several months on lees (or ‘sur lie’ as the French like to call it), slowly building structure and complexity. Again, these wines are tasted regularly to make sure they are developing as the winemaker intends.

At Wolf Blass, all our premium Chardonnays are fermented in barrel. Once the wines have finished fermenting, the barrels are topped up to prevent any air, which might cause the wine to lose its freshness, and sealed with a bung. The barrels are then stirred every few weeks to help the yeast lees contribute to the intensity and creaminess that is the hallmark of a great Chardonnay.

Once we are happy with our fledging wines, we go through an intense process of grading and allocating the wines to products. Every wine (and we will have about 500 individual parcels of white wine by this stage) will be tasted blind by a panel of winemakers, given a quality grade and allocated to a product. So a good quality, flavoursome parcel of Chardonnay, for example, may become destined for Yellow Label Chardonnay, but if it shows finer, more concentrated characteristics it may head to Gold Label or our flagship White Label Chardonnay.  It's a long, taxing process and there’s always plenty of discussion and debate, but it's a great feeling to look at all the wines that have been made during the previous few months, and see that the blood, sweat and tears were all worthwhile!

Once all the wines have found a home, Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs and unoaked Chardonnays will be blended and finished ready for early release, while other more complex, oak matured Chardonnays will continue to develop and will be blended later in the year.