de la terre Montepulciano 2014

 

Tasting Notes: Colour: – rich deep red/purple/black colour

Nose: – dominated by dark fruits – black cherry, black olive, Damson plumb with a definite presence of cedary oak.
The wine smells like you would expect it to from its colour – dark and brooding.

Palate: – a strong, succulent attack of dark fruit which moves seamlessly through to a vibrant and mouth-watering mid-palate with real structure. A lovely balance between fruit, tannins and acidity with a nice ‘kick’ of French oak at the finish.

A rich black-fruit style designed for drinking with gamey red meats, duck confit etc.
I love this wine!  Drinking nicely in its youth but this is really just a baby now  – put some away and  watch what happens.

 

Cellaring: Cellar well and you won’t have to think about it going backwards for 15 or more years.

 

Production Quantity: 1736 bottles produced, estate bottled, hand-labelled, individually numbered

 

Winemaker’s Notes

 

Vineyard: Hill Country Estate
Grapes: Montepulciano is a very late ripening variety, with huge bunches, huge berries and a completely unique flavour spectrum.
Having tried a number of other Montepulciano wines from both NZ and Italy since the release of our 2013, we realise that our Hill Country Estate vineyard delivers a particularly ‘muscular’ and structured version of this variety. I have adapted the winemaking (see below) to enhance and celebrate this aspect. 

This is the smallest of our Hill Country Estate vineyards and usually the last to be harvested. The Montepulciano block is tucked away in a small valley creating a microclimate which is quite different to the rest of the vineyard.

 

Montepulciano is a very attractive eating wine grape with its thick skins, dark colour and vibrant refreshing acidity.

 

Wine Style: Our Montepulciano is a big, rich black style of wine – very masculine. The thick, highly coloured skins demand wine-making techniques designed to extract maximum colour and flavour – a wine you would marry with dark red/gamey meats.
Generally speaking, I aim for what I call a “blackfruit” style – reminiscent of black olive, dark red cherries (before they start to get over ripe and lose their acidity). I intentionally work  to diminish the more feminine floral/ raspberry aroma spectra.
Because we sold out of our 2013 Montepulciano in a very short time and I was quite happy with the style of this wine, I decided not to change too much – just some fine-tuning based on our (albeit limited) experience with the new vineyard  and how I saw the wine behave in the winery. 
Winemaking Notes: Even one year’s experience making Montepulciano from our own vineyard allowed me to fine-tune my winemaking for the 2014 – albeit slightly. The main changes were related to the time on skins, acid management and (lack of) filtration.

The fruit was crushed to an open top fermenter and either hand-plunged or pumped over (with aeration) 3 times per day. I use a special (malic-degrading) yeast for Montepulciano to help manage the high natural acidity and contribute to the ‘black-fruit’ aroma spectrum I am looking for.

Co-inoculation with malo bacteria immediately after the sugar fermentation started ensured a quick start and rapid completion to malo by utilising the heat of fermentation (and avoiding cold winter temperatures)  as well as gradually acclimatising the fastidious malolactic bacteria to increasing alcohol and a decreasing supply of nutrients. Not only does this simplify the logistics of running the winery but (more-importantly) it also helps reduce the risk of Brettanomyces problems by getting the wine protected with SO2 earlier in the wine’s life.

 

A unique feature of Montepulciano and probably related to its very late ripening is a high proportion of what appeared to be second-set berries in the crop. These berries revealed themselves during fermentation by rising to the surface as pink-white ‘intruders’ which were painstakingly removed as they appeared. Having been aware of this from our 2013 experience, we were watching for these berries in the vineyard and delayed picking to allow a certain degree of ‘catch-up’ on the vine. The incidence of these 2nd set berries was much lower in 2014.

 

Due to the high colour, tannin and fruit weight of this wine, we again used a significant amount of aeration during fermentation and subsequent skin contact. This aeration was critical in stabilising the colour and (more importantly) softening and enriching the naturally high tannins of this variety.

Following fermentation, the wine was micro-oxygenated to continue the colour stabilisation and tannin evolution in a highly-controlled manner.
The 2014 Montepulciano wine remained on skins for a much shorter time than the 2013. This change is driven by the fact that I believe it is difficult to get the seed tannins of Montepulciano (or Tannat) fully ripe here in Hawkes Bay – almost regardless of how hot/dry the vintage may be. Unlike skin tannins (which tend to have riper tannins and extract more easily and earlier in the fermentation) seeds require more time in full alcohol to release their tannins. I believe we get better colour, better tannin quality and more vibrant fruit with medium length macerations.
Following gentle pressing (with pressings fully-blended back in with the Free Run) the wine was aged for ~ 14 months in French barriques (one third new). Barrels were racked, blended, SO2 adjusted, and tasted approximately every 3 months during this time.

Our experience with the 2013 Montepulciano highlighted that this variety has a relatively high natural acidity. For me it is critical to keep the balance between the tannins and acidity – especially when the variety has naturally high tannin levels like Monte. In the past, I have favoured leaving the acidity alone until just prior to bottling. For various technical reasons, I have now changed this to adjust the acidity incrementally throughout the winemaking process.

 

Another significant fine-tuning of this wine (from the 2013) was bottling it unfiltered.

The wine was simply racked several times to ensure it was very clean before going to bottle.