Third Excerpt from “The Making of a Barrel of Wine”

My evaluation of the 3 Dijon clones (which all have their origins in Morey-Saint-Denis, Côte-d’Or, Burgundy), as chosen for my own wine, is as follows:

Clone 113:

This clone gives early ripeness, and produces full-bodied and complex wines with good acidity and colour.

Clone 115:

Another early ripening clone; medium colour; complex cherry and plum flavours; fine, rounded tannin structure. Consistently produces wines of impressive aroma, complexity and balance.

Clone 777:

Strong and intense colour, strong aromas, good balance; round tannins. The bunches and berries  are smaller in size than Clone 115.

From my personal experience of the Dijon clones, I would not make a wine from one clone only, except for perhaps Clone 115, but rather a blend of a number of clones as I have selected here.

Winemaking is essentially the process of helping grapes ferment themselves into wine. Methods to achieve this can vary and some grapes are easier to ferment than others. Pinot noir can be one of the more difficult ones: when it is at its best it can make the most sublime wine of all; no other red wine can balance spice and fruit so seductively, at once so ripe and fragile, so decadent and sensuous, so elegant.

One of our earlier pinot noirs was described in a local review as “so sensuous and seductive as to be best enjoyed in the bedroom with soft lighting and the music of Barry White playing on the stereo”. Pinot noir is variously known as the “heartbreak grape” and the “holy grail” for winemakers. It certainly challenges us all, but when the stars are all in alignment, drinking it can be a heavenly experience. There is purity within its complexity.

Including a proportion of whole bunches (with stems) in pinot noir during fermentation is a trend that is relatively recent in New Zealand. Those who advocate this approach believe it improves complexity and structure in the wine. The winemaker is looking for whole-bunch-derived fragrance and shape. A judgement call is required as to the appropriate proportion of whole bunches and individual berries. From what I have gleaned from others, whole-bunch fermentation as a technique to enhance quality needs to be used judiciously: it can be a fine line between what the grapes will handle and what will overwhelm. In my case I have opted for 10% as the whole-bunch component.

As a proponent of the whole-bunch style, I am seeking, with my single barrel, to bring together premium-quality fruit and indigenous yeasts, with the aim of producing a fragrant pinot noir with charm, delicacy, complexity and depth. Wines made in this style will take longer to open up and be at their best; wines definitely for cellaring.

The use of oak barrels is principally to enhance flavours and structure in the wine. Time in barrel promotes beneficial polymerisation and condensation reactions, which reduce harshness, soften tannins, deepen colour and stabilise the wine. For pinot noir to be a serious cellaring prospect, time in oak barrel is essential. My preference is for French oak, which gives out spicy, cedary characters – key for me when considering what constitutes a serious pinot noir. The French barrique will hold 225L of wine to yield a maximum of 25 cases (12 bottles x 750ml). The useful life of an oak barrel in the winery (without re-shaving) is 5 to 10 years, depending on hygiene regimes. Well-cared-for barrels can last longer, and while they no longer impart flavour, they do provide a slow, controlled, oxidative environment, allowing the wine to soften and slowly mature.

Cheers!     BARRY JOHNS

6 thoughts on “Third Excerpt from “The Making of a Barrel of Wine”

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