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


Following the completion of malolactic fermentation (MLF) the wine was sulphured on 28 February 2013, and then racked to clarify it from the lees ready for bottling, which took place on 4 March 2013. Sulphur dioxide was added at the rate of 40ppm to scavenge oxygen molecules and slow down the rate of oxidation in the bottling. After bottling, the free sulphur level in the wine, on analysis, had dropped to 16mg/L. Racking of the wine involved drawing off the completely clear wine using a spear attachment connected to a manually operated pumping line. We were able to rack off 222L of absolutely clear wine, leaving 3L of heavy lees, which was retained by the winery. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered, to be labelled at a later date, ready for release in early November 2013.

The artisan winemaker tends not to fine or filter pinot noir so as to give a more “interesting” wine. That is how I prefer it. I chose an antique-colour BVS Premier Burgundy 75cl bottle that is very stylish, with good lines. These bottles are made in China and imported by Chandler Bottles & Packaging. For the closure, I chose a newly available Guala screw cap out of Australia, product reference WAK 30601735 EX, 30 x 60, in a plain black gloss finish. It is a superior- quality screw cap in that it has a pre-threaded liner that is inserted into a long aluminium shell (first screwed on the bottle neck finish and then tucked under a standard BVS neck ring), so that the thread is not visible from the outside. It is a more robust screw cap closure and better able to withstand any external pressure that might break the cap seal. They do not have knurling and have a well-styled head: a combination of good looks and superior functionality. The Wak was introduced by Guala Closures to more closely imitate the appearance of the bottle closed with cork and a capsule overlay. A special head fitting is required when using this screw cap on the bottling line. They also take more time to fit than a standard screw cap.

At the time of bottling the wine had spent nine months maturing in my single oak barrique. The decision to bottle was taken in consultation with Mat Donaldson after considering a number of factors, including:

  1. the relatively slow and extended MLF
  1. the age of the vines from which the grapes had been picked in 2012 (14 years)
  1. a tasting of the wine, which indicated that it was “ready to go”: vibrant colour, fragrant aromatics – cherry, spice and savoury flavours – lovely fruit sweetness, well-rounded tannin structure and smooth finish.

In Mat’s words, “a sexy wine”.

Results of long-running trials in Australia comparing natural corks with screw caps, and now with DIAM corks, show that the screw cap and the DIAM cork seal the wine tighter than an average cork, keeping it fresher after a few years. The research also shows that the DIAM cork lets in a tiny amount of air, which the screw cap does not. Proponents of the screw cap closure believe wine does evolve over time in bottle, just at a slower rate. There is an on-going debate about the role that admitted oxygen plays in the ageing of a wine. Some argue that the slow ingress of oxygen plays a vital role, while others believe that any admitted oxygen is harmful to the wine.

Screw caps are closures made from aluminium material, which fit over the neck of bottles manufactured with a thread around the top outer edge. They also have a skirt down the neck of the bottle, as part of the total cap, for aesthetics. A layer of plastic as a neutral liner forms part of the inside wadding to make a seal with the mouth of the bottle.

DIAM corks are a technical cork made using a high- tech procedure in which all flavour and odour are extracted from the cork granules and particles using a super-critical carbon dioxide wash. The cork particles are then bound together to form a very smooth-sided cork closure of consistent quality.

Each closure has its own strengths and weaknesses, so that the question is more about which closure  best suits the individual wine producer’s range of wines than which closure is best. There is also a cost difference between the various closures. Premium natural corks range from $1 – $2 each, the DIAM cork  is 24 cents and standard screw caps are 17 cents each. My preferred screw cap is the Guala WAK plain black gloss at 22 cents each. Natural cork and the DIAM cork have the added cost of an overlay capsule to cover the top of the bottle and to provide the skirt down the neck of the bottle.

After consultation with our graphic designer, Peter Fear, we decided to label this special release wine under the Glasnevin label, as a promotional opportunity for the brand. Glasnevin, of which I am general manager, has an established reputation for its limited-release range of wines. My name appears on the back label as the winemaker and my former career as a lawyer is referred to in the additional name “Le Notaire” on the front label. The design and layout of the label combined with the style of the wine bottle and black closure make for a stunning product. To prepare Vintage Notes for the wine and also for the mandatory information included on the back label, the wine was sent for analysis at Hill Laboratories in Waterloo Road, Christchurch.

The 275 bottles are individually numbered at the bottom of the front label and packed in a black box. A copy of this book, detailing the making of the wine, will be included with each bottle supplied.