Wines from the Pyrenees region in central Victoria will be on offer at the Grampians Grape Escape festival in Halls Gap in May.
Melissa Jenkins met with some of the winemakers to discuss the process and the passion behind their craft.
WILLIAM TALBOT – Winemaker at Mt Avoca Winery
It’s harvest time and winemaker William Talbot is making lots of decisions each day about what to pick, when to pick and how to treat each ferment.
Talbot likes wines that evolve as you enjoy them over a leisurely meal rather than those that assault your taste buds and lose their flavour after a single glass.
“We look for an elegant style, that’s what I want to do. I don’t want a wine that’s a one glass only wine,” he says on a break from overseeing cabernet picking.
“Some of the New Zealand sauvignon blancs, for example, can be like screaming drag queens – they are so big, intense, vivid and colourful that you can only really have a glass.”
A former lawyer, Talbot was in the restaurant game for a while before falling in love with winemaking during a sabbatical in Central Otago in New Zealand and eventually ending up at Mount Avoca Winery in February 2012.
Talbot says the Pyrenees region has the perfect weather for grapes to ripen slowly and be made into cool climate reds.
“It’s too hot here for pinot noir but for shiraz and cabernet, it’s just a magic environment to grow those in,” he says.
Mount Avoca Winery produces about 15,000 cases of wine annually from grapes that are organically grown, with vines ranging from around two to more than 40 years old.
The grapes are picked and punched down using hand-held tools, with as few additives used as possible.
“I like doing the work, I like putting my hands in there and smelling the wine and tasting it three times a day,” Talbot says.
Talbot says the experience at a Pyrenees cellar door is more low key and personal than what you might find in a more heavily touristed wine region, like Victoria’s Yarra Valley, for example.
“We are not as well known so you can unearth some real treasures up here,” he says.
SEAN HOWE – Manager of Blue Pyrenees Estate
Blue Pyrenees Estate was initially known as Chateau Remy and grew grapes to be made into brandy when Remy Martin established the vineyard in 1963.
Now a range of wines from white sparklings to reds are produced on the 150 hectare vineyard.
Manager Shane Howe says sparklings like Midnight Cuvee are a nod to the vineyard’s French roots.
Grapes used in Midnight cuvee are picked in the cool of the night to prevent oxidisation, which can compromise the delicate flavour of a sparkling white wine.
Howe says Blue Pyrenees reds have structure but are not too big.
“We are not after that Arnold Schwarzenegger, condom full of walnuts style of wine,” he says.
“We are looking for just a bit more elegance and bit more refinement.”
Howe has managed Blue Pyrenees Estate for around eight years after setting up wineries for Southcorp and spending three years in Sicily.
MARK SUMMERFIELD – Winemaker at Summerfield Wines
Mark Summerfield’s daughter Saieh, five, buzzes around her Dad during harvest with purple grape smudges on her cheeks and a big smile.
She likes to help her father, who is chief winemaker at Summerfield Wines after his Dad Ian handed the reins to him.
Summerfield Wines is highly regarded for its reds and has a red five-star rating from wine guru James Halliday recognising a long track record of excellence.
The wines also have a fine reputation in China where a bottle of shiraz can retail for more than $600.
For Mark Summerfield, winemaking is all about passion, particularly the special releases dedicated to his children that he makes only for cellar club members.
“I’m passionate about food, I’m passionate about life, I’m passionate about wine,” he says.
“Even my Dad, he’s passionate – I just think it runs in the family.”
Summerfield has never studied winemaking or read a book on the science behind the discipline.
“All my wine making is one big memory bank, I’ve never taken a note,” he says.
“There are some things that you don’t forget and the things that you are really, really passionate about you seem to have a good memory for.”
Summerfield says the key to making great wines is to taste the fruit on the vine and then taste again and again, slowly building up a catalogue of flavours.
Part of the trick to achieving deep, complex flavours is not to pick the fruit too early, with the picking window for grapes that make great wine sometimes less than a week.
At Summerfield Winery, grapes are picked, hand plunged in open fermentation vats, basket pressed and stored in stainless steel overnight before being transferred to oak barrels to continue fermenting.
“For me to get the right marriage in my wines it has to finish fermentation in oak; that’s the only way that the wood and wine come together,” Summerfield says.
* The Grampians Grape Escape will be held on May 3 and 4 at Halls Gap Village Oval, Grampians Rd, Halls Gap. Details: grampiansgrapeescape广西桑拿,广西桑拿网,.