Late Harvest Viognier 2015

 

de la terre Late Harvest Viognier 2015

 

Tasting Notes: Colour: – golden yellow when young with a slow evolution to an even more golden hue with time in bottle.

Nose: – Aromatic and fruity – very expressive.
Lychee, honey-suckle, lemon-blossum. Pretty notes.
Palate: -Lively fresh white fruits in the attack move through a reasonably linear mid-palate and into a long, clean finish.  There is a seam of acidity that runs alongside the fruit to retain freshness and balance.

This style needs to be (at least) lightly chilled.

 

Enjoy chilled with a platter of fresh figs, walnuts, mild creamy blue cheese and salty rice crackers.

 

Production Quantity: 3500 bottles produced, estate bottled in 375ml flutes, hand-labelled and numbered

 

Winemaker’s Notes

 

Vineyard: Hill Country Estate
The Grapes: Following on from the success of the de la terre Noble Viognier, this wine is a lighter and more fruit-driven variant of Viognier dessert wine. One of our major customers asked to make some of this for them.

The grapes for this wine come from the same Viognier terrace as the Noble Viognier.

However, the big difference is in the point at which we harvest the fruit. Whereas the Noble grapes are picked when they reach the stage of ‘wet, furry raisins’  the late harvest grapes are picked just prior to the development of the grey/green mould spores and resulting severe dehydration.

Instead, we wait until the grapes have coloured to the point of say over-ripe apricots – golden yellow with touches of red/brown – but before the point where the spores (hyphae) form. If you put your thumb on these (late harvest) grapes, the skin slides away from the pulp indicating the very nascent stages of botrytis cinerea.

As with the Noble Viognier, choosing the right stage of botrytis to pick takes a bit of experience and some very careful watching (grapes as well as the weather).

Nothing is ever ‘black and white’ in a vineyard situation so there will always be a small percentage of sporulating berries arrive at the winery. No problem – it’s a numbers game and we just make sure the balance of botrytis is about right.

 

Obviously hand picking is critical as the (rotten) grapes fall to the ground at the slightest touch. Also, some bunches need to be avoided if the wrong type of ‘rot’ is present or the fruit is not ripe enough. Machine harvesters can’t make these decisions.

 

Wine Style: This is a much lighter and more fruit-driven dessert-style Viognier. As with the Noble Viognier balance is critical – not only balance between the various types of botrytis but also balance of fruit, sugar and acidity.

 

The aromatics here are somewhat less complex (than the Noble) and dominated by lychee, white pear etc.  Largely absent are the raisiny, vanilla, dried apricot notes that tend to come from the sporulating botrytis.

The palate is fresh, vibrant and elegant fruit balanced with a nice seam of acidity to prevent the wine becoming cloying.

 

Winemaking Notes: The handpicked grapes were pressed (very hard) in our bag press. This late-pick style behaves much more like a standard white table wine compared to the very challenging Noble (fully-botrytised) grapes.

We use high levels of pectinase enzyme to fully-extract the severely damaged grape skins.

 

The juice from the press is chilled and settled overnight before racking to a stainless steel tank for fermentation at cold temperatures with a Sauterne-style yeast.

 

As with Noble Viognier, one of the key winemaking decisions with these wines is exactly when to stop the fermentation.

There is way more sugar present in these grapes than the yeast could possibly convert to alcohol.
My aim is for a balance of ~ 13.0% alcohol and ~50 – 60 grams per litre residual sugar – markedly less sugar than the Noble Viognier.

I have created a (for me) rather elegant spreadsheet that (in conjunction with some rudimentary analyses) enables me to track the alcohol/sugar balance and pick the right point to stop the fermentation. However, in 2015, I inadvertently over-wrote one of the key calculation cells with a number without realising. As a result, I missed the 13.0% alcohol I was targeting and ended up at 13.5% before I realised my error. Could have been worse but really kicking myself about this. Same error occurred in my 2015 Noble Viognier.

My spreadsheet now has over-write protections built in! Live and learn.

By the way, to stop the fermentation, I slam on the cooling and give the wine a big hit of SO2 – the double shock of temperature and SO2 kills the yeast and traps the alcohol and residual sugar at that point.

 

Having (despite some reticence) managed to successfully bottle the Noble Viognier ourselves in 2013 and 2014, we now have enough confidence to bottle all our sweet wines.   It is always risky with a wine high in residual sugar as any stray yeast may kick off in the bottle.

If anything, late harvest wines are even higher risk than Noble wines as the very high sugar provides an additional stress on any stray yeast – osmotic pressure (the yeast cells get ‘flooded’ with water as the system attempts to balance the sugar levels inside and outside the yeast cell membranes – sorry, too much science! As well as this, Noble wines tend to be more depleted in survival nutrients than late harvest wines.

Our small hands-on bottling unit is not equipped with the sterilisation technology employed by the commercial bottling operations.  We compensate for this by adopting our own special (sterilisation) precautions – so far so good.