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Archive for the ‘Viniculture’ Category

Temperature is very important when it comes to wine, not just for when you are storing it or serving it, but all the way from the very beginning. The moment a viticulturist plants a vine, temperature plays a big role throughout the process of the grapes growing, being processed into wine, being transported and stored correctly until the moment it hits your glass at the perfect degree.

It all begins where the grapes are grown. There are two climates that grapes are grown in: warm climate or cool climate. Even if the varietal is the same, the taste of the fruit will vary depending on which climate it was grown in.

Like all fruit, a grape needs a certain amount of warmth and sunlight in order to ripen fully. A sufficient amount of heat during growing season will yield a good crop, allowing the growers enough grapes to make wine or to sell on to winemakers. No one is in charge of the weather, so each year is different and no one really knows how it is going to play out. A colder than usual year will produce a very different tasting crop to one that has experienced a warmer than usual season.

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Just as the sun needs to be shining enough throughout the summer to produce an abundance of fruit, it also needs to become cold enough for the vine to go dormant during winter. The dormant part of the life cycle is actually just as important as the growing stage.

Grapes for wine are grown in all parts of the world. It can come from regions that experience colder temperatures, like New Zealand or Tasmania, or it can come from warm climates like Spain and Argentina. All of these regions work to their own strengths and plant varietals that are more suitable to the climate they are in. However, it is possible to grow most varietals in any climate, it will just impact on the taste of the fruit and therefore the wine.

Cool climate wine

A cool climate region is just that; an area that experiences colder temperatures. It doesn’t need to be an area that stays cold all year round, in fact they rarely do. In the warmer months they may experience very high temperatures, but there are other factors at play with how the grapes grow. It can depend on the length of the growing season, how fast the temperature drops off towards harvest time and how much direct sunlight the fruit is exposed to during the season. A cool climate may have a warm day, but the amount of hours the sun is out is vastly different to a warm climate. The metabolic process of the vine and the fruit will be slowed down due to less, or weaker, sunlight and the development of sugar slows down. This is why the wine will be more acidic than the warm climate wines.

A cool climate wine will be lower in alcohol, be light bodied and have a subtler taste. It will be higher in acidity. The type of grapes that thrive in cool climates are: pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.

Warm climate wine

A warm climate will experience hot temperatures and a lot of direct sunlight. A direct, strong sun for more hours of the day will make the fruit grow faster and ripen more quickly. The sun also plays the lead role in how much sugar grows within the grape, so a warm climate wine will be sweeter to taste as the sugar content is higher.

A warm climate wine is usually bolder, with a full body and stronger fruit flavours. It will have a higher alcohol content and less acidity. Most reds are suited to warm climates.

Transportation and storage

No matter which climate a grape has been grown in, even if it is from the hottest corner of the earth, once produced into wine it should never be exposed to too much heat.

One of the biggest concerns for the growers and the wine producers is that the transportation of the wine to the shops and eventually to the consumer is done with the utmost care, so that each person can enjoy the same taste from the wine that the maker had intended. When wine is exposed to heat it will begin the aging process and can actually age a bottle up to four times faster than one that has been kept within the correct temperature range.

Once a customer has purchased a bottle of wine and intends to drive home with it, there is no need to be concerned about the temperature fluctuation from the liquor shop, to the car, to the house. A slow and small variation is not going to make a huge difference. However, if the wine is accidentally left in a hot car for a day or two there will be an unpleasant difference in the taste once it is eventually opened.

At Taylors Wines we have developed a unique, touch activated temperature sensor so you can tell when your wine is at the perfect serving temperature to enjoy. Read more about our new Optimum Drinking Temperature sensor and order your FREE sensor stickers today to take the Taylors Temperature Challenge and see the difference for yourself.

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We’ve had an interesting start to vintage 2015 with what our vineyard manager, Colin describes as an ‘upside down growing season’.  It was dry early in October, and then cool and mild in December and January with some rainfall.  The opposite is usually the case with October usually seeing the mild conditions and some rain and December and January being relatively warm and dry!  In any case, the stored water in our dams from above average June rainfall meant we were able to irrigate during the dry October months and keep the vines in optimal health.  Whilst moisture levels can be somewhat controlled, we can’t control temperature and sudden and dramatic falls in overnight temperatures usually bring the threat of frost.  As it happened, in mid-October, the Taylor family estate experienced a frost event. And whilst the extent of crop loss in the affected blocks is still to be fully assessed, overall the quality of the fruit developing for vintage 2015 looks to be great.

V15 Season Rainfall chartV15 Season Min Temp chartGrowing Season Statistics - vintage 2015

Vintage officially commenced at Taylors Wines with processing of fruit for our new sparkling wine – the Taylors Estate Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut Cuvee on January 19th.  On the 3rd of February the first of the fruit for the table wines was harvested; Semillon. Later that same week, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer were picked from blocks on the Clare Valley estate.  The first of the red table wine varieties; Tempranillo was picked on 11th February.  This is earlier than we would have expected but when they are ripe and ready, we are not going to argue!  In fact, this vintage is turning out to be a pretty ‘fast and furious’ affair, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the vintage of 2007.

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One of the great things about our cellars and winery is that they are designed with both gentle handling and capacity in mind so we can happily keep receiving those lovely ripe grapes as quickly as they want to ripen. Embracing continuous innovation is one of our core values so we always have lots of interesting R&D projects on the go.  This vintage is no exception, although one piece of new equipment seems to be causing more excitement than usual.  Our winemakers have collaborated with some forward thinking tank manufacturers to install a new small capacity fermentation vessel.  The unusual thing about this vessel is that it is shaped like an egg!  Now egg-shaped fermenters aren’t exactly new.  What’s new in this case is that it is constructed from stainless steel.  In fact, it’s the first stainless steel egg-shaped fermenter in the world!  We all agreed it looked a bit like Mork’s spaceship.  Now, of course, there have been concrete, clay and porcelain egg-shaped fermenters but the problem with these is the fact that you can keep them as clean as you would like and they are usually very small.  With stainless steel, you can completely sterilize and sanitize them; controlling the ‘zoo’ of microorganisms present in wine making is very important.  And you can make them with larger capacity.  Winemakers generally seek the egg shape fermenter as there is a convection currents created inside the vessel due to the shape during fermentation – this effectively ‘mixes’ the fermenting must without any mechanical intervention – a very gentle and efficient way of extracting all of the colour and flavour that translates into quality wine!  We’ll let you know how our egg-fermented wines turn out!

 

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Right now, the cellars are quickly filling with the gorgeous aromas of fermenting grapes – it really is an exciting time of the year.  I’ve said it before but I’ll happily repeat it – this is what I love about wine. It’s not just a beverage that you can make from a recipe anytime you like.  The grapes ripen as Mother Nature sees fit and the wines we craft from this vintage represents a snapshot in time or history even.  As these ‘fruits of our labour’ go through their various processing, fermentation and maturation stages on the way to being completed, my thoughts often wander to the future and what life will be like when we are enjoying these fine wines from vintage 2015.

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You might have heard of a phrase in education: ‘lifelong learning’. The idea is that your wellbeing improves if you keep learning new things right across your lifespan. Well, when it comes to learning new and innovative ways to grow grapes and make premium wines, we here at Taylors Wines are happy to be known as lifelong scholars. That’s because we humbly recognise that for the craft of viniculture – studied and applied by humans for at least the last 8,000 years – one whole lifetime couldn’t be long enough to learn all that there is to know. So we stay diligently up-to-date with the latest developments in wine craft, doing the best we can to ensure quality and refinement across everything that we do.

Learning at the edge

Like many practices since the early 20th century, viniculture has been greatly enhanced by incredible leaps in technology. At Taylors, we examine and trial new trends in viniculture with a view to continuously improving the taste, quality and integrity of our wine ranges. And because of our proven commitment both to the land and to overall vineyard health, we insist that any innovations not only avoid harming the environment, but also actually put something back. We’re learning more each day about the potential to improve our outputs, both in the vineyard and back at the winery. And that’s great news for enjoyers of wine, who can count on us staying at the cutting edge of developments in wine growth and development.

Developments in precision viticulture

Precision viticulture (PV) is a concept that started to gain traction in Australian winegrowing a few years ago (and just to avoid confusion – viticulture is about growing all types of grapes, for wine, the table and juice, while the term viniculture refers exclusively to wine grape production). The concept of ‘PV’ might seem ridiculously simple – basically, it’s about adapting your practices to suit varying vineyard requirements. Yet for too long in Australia, viticulturists and other primary producers have spent too much time fighting or ignoring the microclimatic realities within and across their paddocks. Precision viticulture promotes the harnessing of new technologies, such as GPS, high-res soil surveys, yield monitoring and remote sensors, in order to provide us grape growers with unbeatable data about individual vine needs. This technology can provide an enormous amount of precise information on moisture levels, soil issues, pest presence, pruning needs, and wind factors, for example. And the outcome for fruit quality and yield can be, well, simply outstanding.

GPS for wine?!

Now this approach isn’t about replacing people with machines – nothing comes close to the five senses, or to a producer’s personal affinity with their vines!

But if we can use technology to learn more about the subtleties of our soil, our vines, and our fruit, then our decisions about growth, harvest and vinification are going to be better informed.

You might ask what does this all mean for premium wine offerings, such as those in our award-winning collection? Well, it means our winemakers are presented with simply impeccable fruit that has been grown on carefully nurtured vines – each planted for optimum results. Water, nutrition and protection needs have been observed and acted on appropriately throughout the entire growth cycle. Plus, harvest has occurred at precisely the perfect time for each varietal. And the environment has received as little burden as possible, with wastage and overplanting issues eliminated. Our winemakers then have the opportunity to work with grapes that they’ve monitored closely right throughout growth and harvest. This gives them the ability to make vinification and fermentation decisions that are perfectly matched to the nuances of each particular vintage. Pretty heady stuff!

And, technological advances are happening all the time. The exciting innovations being talked about in viniculture might sometimes seem a bit pie in the sky – until you start to see examples of new technology coming into being.vineyard-tractor

Pinpointing vine stress

For instance, we were intrigued to hear earlier this year of a device being developed by a West Australian researcher, which monitors real-time vine stress. Now, we all know what a wilting plant looks like – but in the commercial vineyard, it pays to know about any water stress that vines are experiencing long before such visible signs emerge.

Bringing those grapes in pristine, succulent style to the winery is a skill that requires relentless monitoring of moisture, nutrient, pest and weather variables across the growing season. We need all the help available! So, it’s certainly exciting that Associate Professor Rafiei over at UWA is developing a real-time intelligent sensor water stress device that will do a whole lot better than humans at detecting precisely when the vines are under strain from the dry. And irrigation for such vines at exactly the right time prevents the avoidable problems with grape yield and quality if such stress goes undetected for too long.

Water is a constant issue for us primary producers. With innovations such as this emerging, we can conserve water though efficient use, while also enhancing grape yield and quality. That’s got to be a win-win!

Learning every day

We could certainly wax lyrical long into the night about the tremendous innovations coming through in viniculture. You might have guessed that at Taylors Wines, we’re excited to learn everything that we can about how to bring the best fruit from the vineyard straight to our winemakers.

The overall trends of precision viticulture, plus developments like the real-time water stress device, give us confidence that technology for winegrowers is improving every day.

Suffice to say, here in Auburn we intend to stay on the edge of technology, ensuring that our vines are tended and our wines created with knowledge of the best innovations available. If we reduce wastage, improve soil, enhance fruit and deliver premium wines… then every little bit of our learning is worth the effort. We can all raise a glass to that!

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