Vintage is underway at Dindima and the familiar sights and sounds of this busy time of year are exciting to experience again and will be a constant part of our lives for the next couple of months.
Berry testing both sensory (taste and sight) and scientific (sugar and acid levels) are the first signs that the crazy season is upon us. Once the winemaker and viticulturalist agree the grapes are good to pick the nets are removed. They have fulfilled their very important function of keeping the starlings and silvereyes at bay and the fruit free of destructive bird peck. Crates are loaded onto the tractor and distributed down the rows ready to be filled with beautifully ripe, pristine, high quality fruit. Pickers begin their day in the crisp autumn air, and early misty light with jackets and beanies which as the morning warms up are discarded for sunscreen, hats and water bottles.
One of the wonderful sounds of vintage is the diversity of languages on the air; French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese along with many different English accents. The topics of discussion are endless but regularly travel, food and wine, cultural similarities and differences, music, the environment, world politics, jokes, waft down the rows, accompanied by the snipping of bunches, calls for more crates, requests to keep M.O.G. (material other than grapes) out of the crates and not to overfill them, and so it goes on.....
Family, friends, and backpackers, for all of us there is a wonderful sense of a common purpose, comradery and the joy of working in such a beautiful rural environment together. Autumn in the vineyard is also very special because it is the culmination of a year’s work and literally when we reap the fruits of our labour. This growing season has been extremely dry and mostly warm. As a result, we are harvesting some exceptional fruit that is displaying wonderful varietal characters. Nature has been very kind to us thus far so we anticipate making some very high-quality wines this vintage. We think you will be in for some real treats when vintage 2018 becomes available at the cellar door.
To date we have picked our two white varieties, Chardonnay and Semillon and are in the process of fermenting both. This vintage we are making unwooded wine styles for each of these varieties because we have completely sold out of both. We hope to have these wines available later in the year, certainly ready to be enjoyed over the summer holiday season.
As with the vineyard the winery has its own sights and sounds of vintage. Over the last week and a half there has been lots of cleaning within the winery, especially of equipment; the press, fermentation tanks and the washing of emptied crates. Hygiene is paramount, so the sounds of water are ever present. High pressure cleaners are in constant use as is the sound of brushes scrubbing every possible surface with sanitisers.
The pressing of the grapes is always thrilling and the press itself has its own personality as it goes through its inflating, pressing and deflating cycles. It is accompanied by the low hum of pumps carrying the fresh juice in hoses to settling tanks and the interrupted sounds of the cooling block starting up and closing down as it regulates the temperature of the juice.
Then there are the wonderful smells of yeasts being prepared for inoculating the grape juice so that the sugars are converted into alcohol. If you’ve ever made bread you’ll know that nose filling, rich, yeasty smell that really whets your appetite and makes you long for the bread to come out of the oven. The smell is very like that but depending on the style of wine being made it may not retain a yeasty quality on the palate. In fact, this vintage Dindima’s Chardonnay and Semillon will be fruity, crisp and clean and will not display leesy, yeasty characters on the nose or palate.
The ferment of the Chardonnay is more advanced than that of the Semillon. It is revealing some lovely apricot and pear characters when we lift the lid to check on how the ferment is progressing. Next posting we’ll let you know how the whites are developing and where we are up to with the picking and making of the reds. This vintage we will be making Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat so there is a lot of work still to be done.
Meet our winemaker James Bell who has made wine for Dindima since 2003. 2018 is James’ 16th vintage and he is delighted with how this vintage has progressed.