Fresh from the semester break (not that I actually stopped), I am ready to continue to make my dreams happen. Week eight of the semester was mostly spent with my head in a book, but things are getting intense. Deadlines are looming and the pressure is on if I want to match those first semester grades.
Last week I spent three days learning how to handle chemicals safely, back on the farm at Yan Yean. Best of all though, was managing to bag a space on a bus to do some pruning in Ararat. This love affair I have started with vines is real! Epic amounts of wine were tasted and Pip and I had the privilege of attending a Wine Communicators function about ‘our’ industry.
Top 3 things I learnt this fortnight:
The wine tasting I have written about this term has been part of my Wine Evaluation unit at uni. This week I started my WSET2 sommelier exam too. Now my weekly tasting load (not including my self study) has increased from six to twelve wines. Thankfully however, these are split between Tuesday and Thursday. Spitoons and dreams!
Luckily the wines we use for the WSET are the same as those we have encountered already, so I am getting the opportunity to really assess my skills. So far so good, my ability to identify the key varietals has significantly improved. Hopefully this is starting to show a little in my weekly wine tastings on Instagram.
So you can see where I am coming from in said reviews, I thought I would share with you some of the recommended techniques…
Andi’s little guide to tasting
Have a good look at your musty nectar. Most quality wines will be clear unless they are unfiltered or Pét Nat style. If you were not expecting your wine to have a haze, it may be a fault. You may need to tilt reds a little bit if they are very deeply coloured – just check you can see through the shallow bit. How would you describe the colour? Think of familiar colours like those of precious stones (ruby, gold), fruit (lemon) or just state a colour – super tricky for rosés! This can be very important – people are judgemental and fussy about colour, I tend to only be drawn to a rosé if it is the palest salmon pink.
Swirl and sniff it. How easy was that? Could you smell it a mile off or did you really have to shove your nose in the glass? If it doesn’t smell like wine don’t drink it, it might be unclean. Did those whiffs remind you of anything? Start with fruits. Lots of wines have citrus and lots of reds have red or black fruits. Anything familiar? What about floral or herbal smells? Anything else – a freshly opened tennis ball tin? (I’m serious – look out for this one in some Rieslings)
Taste. Dry, sweet or somewhere in between? If the wine leaves you salivating, it is probably high in acid, if it leaves your mouth dry then it has a good dose of tannins. Did you experience any other flavours? Sometimes this is where you may pick up textures or flavours like butter or toast. If the flavours linger in your mouth for ages it has a good finish.
Summarise. A wine with an interesting number of flavours, with balanced acid, sweetness, alcohol and tannins (none of them really stood out) that is long lasting, is a good wine. If you are gutted when the bottle is empty is was probably very good, and if you rave about it to all of your chums then it might just have been outstanding!
Wine tasting is subjective and easy to get into. Have a go!
2. Come sleet or shine
I have already waxed lyrical about how much I love pruning. Well, I jumped at the chance of gatecrashing a pruning trip with my crew last week. Ararat, near the Grampians, is a cool climate region about three hours from Melbourne. That’s right! We travelled for six hours to prune these precious Sangiovese vines. Mad, you may think! Indeed, and to top it all, the weather was shocking at times. In between bouts of sunshine there was sleet. Sleet! Not since the UK have I been that cold. Thought my fingers might fall off at any point.
I absolutely loved it though. With a good pair of snips (now firmly established on my Xmas list) I think I would really enjoy a few weeks in the fresh air. To top off our day we were rewarded with the most stunning rainbow; Reminding me that I need to work hard to make my dreams come true.
3. Chemical Fondling
As if battling with the weather wasn’t enough of a challenge for grape growers and pruners alike… I have just discovered the array of pests to contend with too. It seems that humans are not the only organisms that fully appreciate the wonderful vine. No matter what type of vineyard you are running (conventional, organic, biodynamic), you need an integrated pest management system.
Pests come in all shapes and sizes, from the microscopic moulds, to the giant roos. Oh and don’t forget those armies of insects, competitive weeds and pesky birds too! The world of vineyard pests and diseases is a terrifying one. The chemical handling course is designed to help you meet the challenges of pests, whilst safeguarding the environment and avoiding resistance.
There was much to consider, but one of the most important is that of spray drift. The most efficient way to cover crops, with natural or synthetic chemicals, is to spray them. The tiny droplets formed by spraying machinery can, if the conditions are right, travel for kilometres on the wind. Such spray drift is illegal. Ensuring that your work in the vineyard is confined to your farm is vital, so you need to become somewhat of a weather expert and physicist as well. Knowing about chemicals is also essential in safeguarding your precious crop, as some herbicides sprayed by farmers around you can be devastating to vines.
Best of all though – we got to play with some big farm toys again and I love tractors!
The best of the rest…
What else? I hosted a very successful wine-fuelled study group with my uni crew. Then got 100% in the following test – yes!
Phil and I have started to think seriously about our game plan, with respect to making our dreams come true. This involved a trip to Badger’s Brook, currently for sale, in the Yarra Valley. We are now starting to get a measure of just what it will take for us to own our own place. Whilst in the Yarra, it is rude not to taste some wine – especially when the bottles are bigger than your head!
We have also started to attend events focused around the wider industry. This week we attended a Wine Communicators event about the shape of the Australian wine industry. Fascinating! Once again, we were made very welcome, despite out inexperience.
Next week… More wine, perhaps the start of a business plan, some early canopy management and another wine chem practical.
Stay tuned, things are getting super exciting….
Thanks for reading x