Heathcote Blending Vic - June 2016

Coming soon, the next installment of this years blending sesson at Silver Spoon Estate. 

My Weekend in Heathcote Vic. and the Art of Blending - August 2015

Had a great time last weekend with a couple of colleagues, from 14th - 16th August. Friday was spent in Melbourne, had a light lunch at Gingerboy accompanied by a Riesling Freak No. 4 - a very good wine.  Then went to see the David Bowie exhibition at ACMI. Well worth a visit. That evening drove up to Heathcote (pronounced "Côte" as in Côte du Rhone) and dinner was at Willow Room. We had a great meal but unfortunately it will soon be closed as the owners are moving on, having babies etc. and of course drank same excellent local wine, Chalmers Montevecchio Bianco 2013, Paul Osicka's Majors Creek Heathcote Shiraz 2012 and Tar & Roses Heathcote Tempranillo 2013. The reason for being in Victoria that weekend was that I was blending wines for a small winery. A review of the those events will be posted next week. 

On Saturday morning, we were fortunate to have a private tasting at Jasper Hill Wines. An icon winery - always in the Top 100 wines in Australia - with limited supply. All wines are released on the last weekend of August, so we felt very lucky that we were able to taste the future releases, which sell out on the day so you've got to be quick. The wines tasted were Georgia's Paddock Riesling 2015 - a very different style to those of Clare, drier and with lime and lemon notes. Georgia's Paddock Heathcote Shiraz 2014 - a wine that is subtler than past vintages, full of flavour and one that will cellar for at least 10 years. And two wines in partnership with Michel Chapoutier of Hermitage, France, La Pleiade 2012 Shiraz and Agly Bros Côte de Roussillan 2008 - very interesting and worth a purchase. 

Next stop was a Masterclass and lunch at Domaine Asmara, showcasing six wineries from the region. This was the second year I attended the MC. It was like last year, very interesting but this time with a twist... the chef turned up two hours late (with beef cheeks to be cooked!). Regardless there were some standout wines on the day.  The host winery Domaine Asmara certainly is making some excellent wines. Their 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a standout, Trophy Winner, Heathcote Wine Show 2015 Best Red from Cabernet Family Varieties and at roughly $40/bottle - certainly you should pick up a dozen. 

The effects of the Masterclass

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Preservatives in Wine – and Organic Wine

Let's dispel a few myths about  preservatives in wine and organic (preservative-free) wine. This is an interesting topic to discuss – a lot has been said and not always favourably concerning sulphur in wine. I will try and make it as brief as possible.

Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) Facts
Sulphur is an element that occurs naturally and is the seventh or eighth most abundant element in the human body. It's the 16th most abundant element in Earth's crust and oceans and is even in meteorites. It is an essential component of all living cells and is present in some amino acids. Canada is the biggest exporter of sulphur, and China the biggest importer.

Sulphur is used in many textiles, rubber products, household items and life-saving drugs. It has been known of for thousands of years and is mentioned in the Bible. It was also used by Ancient Greeks and Romans as a fumigant and disinfectant. In sixth century China, the Chinese named it brimstone – meaning "the stone that burns".

Preservatives in Wine
There are three main types of preservatives in wine. Get a bottle of red and white and take a look at the label, they are as follows:

  • 220 preservative sulphur – the most prevalent.
  • 224 preservative potassium metabisulphate (a salt).
  • 330 preservative – ascorbic acid – but technically an antioxidant for white wines rather than a preservative.

Sulphur in Winemaking and Allergic Reactions
In winemaking the presence of sulphur is in two forms – bound and free. The bound has done it's job and is not useful anymore, and the free keeps on working to protect the wine. It is the amount of sulphur in wine that sometimes confuses people. With red and white wines the legal limit of sulphur is 250ppm (parts per million) and 300ppm in sweet wines. To give you an example of how that roughly translates into volume, it's approximately 2.5ml in a litre of wine or 1.8ml in a 750ml bottle.

To elaborate, if you eat a handful of dried fruit there is more sulphur – approximately 1000 ppm – than in a glass of wine. Unless you can't eat dried fruit then you are not in the minority of people allergic to sulphur. Yet if you are reacting to wine, and you eat dried fruit without problems, it is more likely the histamines and tannins you are allergic to. They come from the skins of the grapes and from oak-derived tannin from barrel maturation.

Most winemakers will use less than 120ppm of sulphur in their wines and generally the norm is around 50-80ppm. Wine casks can be higher.

Like all allergies, it is up to the individual to know what they are allergic to and to seek the proper medical advice. I am not a medical practitioner and can only pass on what I learnt and read during my winemaking studies at Roseworthy (University of Adelaide) in South Australia. Personally, I can't drink tea as I am allergic to the tannin in tea which is stronger than in wine. Black unsweetened tea is an great example of nearly pure tannin dissolved in water. It makes me so nauseous I haven't been able to drink tea in more than 25 years.

Organic Wine – Preservative Free
Up to 10ppm of sulphur is a natural by-product of the fermentation process, so even in wines that have no added sulphur there is a small amount present because of this natural process.

What sulphur does is inhibit bacterial spoilage, which aids the the shelf life of the wine.

A Wine Made Without Sulphur?
Can a wine be made without the use of sulphur to inhibit bacterial spoilage? The answer is yes. There are many wineries that do so. The process is no different to normal winemaking practices but the difference is the care and cleanliness administered in the vineyard and winery. As one winemaker would say, "Cleanliness, cleanliness, cleanliness!"

Everything must be clean so as not to attract bacterial spoilage. And the grapes must be sound and full. Alcohol and tannins in wine are natural preservatives which aid in the ageing of the wine. Tannin is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in plants, seeds, bark, leaves and fruit skins and it causes that drying effect on the centre of your tongue. Incidentally acid (lemon juice for example) is felt on the either side of the tongue. Some high-tannin foods are:

  • Tea leaves 
  • Walnuts, almonds and nuts with skins
  • Dark chocolate
  • Cinnamon, cloves and other spices
  • Pomegranates, grapes and açai berries.
  • Quinces
  • Red beans.

Also the older the wine the less the histamines and tannins that are present in the wine become incorporated in the wine.

A Few Organic Wineries in Australia
Rosnay Central Ranges, Bosworth Wines McLaren Vale, Happs Vinyards WA, Wild Fox, Tambourlaine, and Cullens Margaret River, to name a few.

© Bad Boys Booze Company 2014

References
www.comlaw.gov.au - Food Standards Australia
www.happs.com.au - Happs Wines
www.organicwines.com.au - Organic Wines
www.drnorrie.info/html/home.html - The Wine Doctor

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