October 2011 Archives

Grafting chardonnay to malbec


I am in the process of grafting over another row of chardonnay to malbec. While to many professional grafters this is a fast and painless task, for me it takes quite a bit of time. But I do love doing it. I love seeing a new life spring from old. This is now my 3rd season of grafting, so I think I am getting better and faster. For me the trick is to make sure the bud I cut from the cane (stored over winter in the fridge) is cut clean and straight so it can fit exactly into the chip in the old vine without any light exposed between the bud and the trunk. Normally if I take time to match the bud to the wood, the strike rate is over 98%. If, however, you quickly bandage the bud in because Sunday roast lamb is waiting on the verandah table along with friends and family and a few bottles of red, you only have yourself to blame..



Here is a pic taken while I was out in the vineyard grafting over the weekend. It is a sea of green in the vineyard at the moment! 


My vintage in France - the magic of malbec


Just back from vintage at Chateau Chambert in Cahors working with malbec and my head is still full of French words .. and my stomach full of French cheese! Ah, la belle France!! If only it didn't entail such a hellishly long flight!

For those who don't know, Cahors is about 2 hours east of Bordeaux and is a region where malbec is king. I wanted to learn more about this underrated grape variety, especially as each year our own small planting of malbec shines with personality and flavour. I wanted to learn what the variety looked and tasted like in Cahors and to steal some winemaking tricks. How can I aspire to make good malbec without paying homage to one of the best regions in the world for malbec? 

chambert2.jpgChateau Chambert is one of the most beautiful estates in the region, with its chateau overlooking the domain's vineyards. And the people in it are some of the most generous and kind people I've worked with, with a wicked sense of humour! I miss you all already - Vincent, Charles, Sylvie, Renne, Loulou, Amande, Bernard and Philippe je vous attends en Australie!! 

We crushed malbec for about 10 days, 8am-10pm, then the fermentation regime began in earnest. Like most French producers I've worked with, Chambert believes in post ferment maceration. We looked for "gras" or fatness on the palate - when those sometimes astringent tannins plateau out and develop roundness on the palate. 

Although still suffering jetlag, I couldn't help but go down into the cellar and compare our wines against the wines I've been tasting and working with in France for the past month. I was happy to see our chardonnay looking bright yet complex - I will start preparing it for bottling shortly. Our malbec looks entirely different to Cahors! Ours is lifted violets and raspberry/plum fruits with a focus on fruit on the palate whereas Cahors tends to have more savoury tannins and an entirely different acid profile. It will be interesting to see how my malbec 2012 will look in light of the techniques learnt from my vintage in Cahors.