And so it begins... vintage 2011. Amazingly, the weather has settled and we seem headed for a few weeks of perfect autumn weather. I have been looking back throughout earlier vintage dates and this is the latest start since I have started as winemaker. Nick has done some fantastic work in the vineyard and blocks are in good condition.  

First off was Chardonnay. We picked the All Saints Estate block overnight on Wednesday and then moved on to a hand pick of the St Leonard Vineyard long rows. The rest of St Leonards was picked in the cool early hours of Friday morning. Nearly all the fruit has been crushed, chilled and pressed quick-smart to preserve the aromatics. It will get a lovely cool, slow fermentation and maximum attention and protection throughout. The wine will be destined for our All Saints Estate Chardonnay and will be beautifully fresh and peachy.

We also kept back a couple of bins of hand-selected fruit from the St Leonards block which was handled altogether differently. The wine is destined for our Alias I white and so we want it full of texture and character.  It was crushed straight back to picking bins where it sat and steeped on skins for a couple of hours. This is called skin contact, which sounds a bit rude and is the only example I can think of where the French version maceration peliculaire is less sexy. Obviously that's beside the point; the point is that the period of skin contact allows the extraction of more flavour from the pulp surrounding the skins and pips. However, this also causes the pick-up of a fair bit more tannin and also the loss of some of the finest aromatics.  As with lots of winemaking decisions, it's all about plusses and minuses.  

After the skin contact we tipped the must into the old press - all bright and shiny from its pre-vintage re-waxing - and gently pressed the juice to a small steel tank.  This was settled overnight and then put into three second-use French oak barriques where it will have a wild fermentation. We have taken some footage with will be up on you-tube.

All in all a very successful first day and a nice combination of techniques, from the ultra-modern, squeaky-clean to the get down and dirty hands-on traditional. Next off will be Riesling.