Sunday, 10 July 2011

Terroir or winemaker’ skills?

Terroir is the latest buzzword in the New World where most winemakers now claim they respect terroir and make their wine with the minimum interference. So it’s quite a surprise to come across the Chalk Hill Alpha Crucis Winemakers’ Series, a collection of six wines made by six different winemakers using the same block of Shiraz with all vines treated the same during the growing season. The objective is to isolate the winemaking from the viticulture so as clearly to demonstrate how much influence the winemaker can have on a wine. It also reveals whether the gender of the winemaker contributes to any stylistic difference.

The six winemakers employ different techniques, from destemmed, cold soaked fermentation with cultured and/or natural yeasts to ageing on lees, and they use various barrel sizes and combinations of old and new oak. I haven’t yet tried the wines myself, but Stuart Mosman. from Chalk Hill says the wines from the lady winemakers are generally more fragrant and soft while those from the macho winemakers are more at the firm end.

An interesting exercise, confirming that for sure winemakers are influential in the process of winemaking, whatever the terroir. When I was in college I fermented a single batch of Müller Thurgau with different strains of yeast, and even with this one variable there were noticeable differences in the resulting wines. In fact, artisan winemakers often batch-process their grapes in a number of ways and then blend the wines together to make the perfect end product. It would be interesting to blend the six Alpha Crucis wines together and see if an even better result could be achieved. Available from Leisure Wines.

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