This wine is inspired by the early release Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba styles of wine produced in the Barolo and Barbaresco zone of Italy. I have been living and working between Margaret River and this most famous of Italian fine wine regions since 2009. For this wine I wanted to make a great introduction to this grape variety which is totally foreign to most Australian consumers. As with all of my wines I sought to promote a purity of varietal expression and not take any aspect of the wine ‘too far’.
The fruit for this wine came from 2 diverse vineyards. The first small vineyard was located in a very isolated area of the Capel/Donneybrook region around 60km a northeast of Margaret River. The little vineyard is planted exclusively with alternate varieties and predominantly Italian ones which is what caught my interest and led me to pursue the vineyard owner to access some fruit. Well drained gravelly soils predominate in this area. Being more inland than Margaret River, the site experiences slightly warmer days but much cooler nights than Margs’ coastal vineyards – on the day we harvested, there was frost on the vines!
The second small parcel of fruit comes from a vineyard in the southern Yallingup sub-region. This site is also planted almost exclusively with alternate varieties. Stoney, free-draining Forest Grove soils are the norm here, with good exposure to both sunlight and the wind meaning there is a great reduction in disease pressure.
The 2016/17 growing season got off to a good start in spring. Even budburst, high numbers of inflorescence (grapevine flower clusters) and great conditions during flowering lead to a fantastic berry-set and gave growers an early indication of better than average crop levels.
Then our summer, which is typically quite mild in comparison to other areas of Australia, progressed as a much cooler than normal summer. In January, whereas we normally experience days of around 28°C as a maximum and around 16°C during the evening, during the 2016/17 summer we rarely had days over 24°C and regularly experienced evening temperatures down around 11°C at night.
The healthy crop levels and cooler temperatures lead to a very slow maturation of the grapes, with all varieties being harvested approximately 4 weeks later than usual our wines, with Nebbiolo being harvested well in to April.
All of the grapes for this wine were handpicked into small 8kg crates and immediately transported back to the winery where they were destemmed into a small open fermenter with no crushing of the individual berries.
The must was fermented utilising the indigenous yeast which came in on the grape bunches from the vineyard. The ferment was allowed to run at a higher than normal temperature (around 28°C) and plunged every 2-3 hrs, 24hrs/day. The wine was pressed off the skins and seeds in our small basket press after only 5 days and placed into 3 year old French oak barrels to finish fermenting.
After completing alcoholic and malolactic fermentation a small addition of sulphur was added to protect against oxidation and the wine was left to rest in the cellar for 10 months.
This wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered, in January 2017, with our aim being to showcase the amazing fruit which went into making it in the purest way possible.
A flawless pale garnet in colour, this wine displays all of the typical colour notes of the Italian Nebbiolo grape. Hints of just ripe red cherry, violet perfume and red/purple rose combine with a savoury ‘meatiness’ to give a light yet complex nose. The wine is medium weight at best, with high acidity and a high level of tannin so reminiscent of the Nebbiolo variety. Importantly, the tannins are not bitter but display a nutty dryness which works well to balance the cherry fruit and floral spice core of the palate. This wine was conceptualised as an early drinking style and will perhaps be at its best in the first 5 years of its life, but careful cellaring will see it mature and develop for well beyond that short timeframe.
Enjoy with salami and prosciutto, a rare grilled steak, or anything with some fats in it to give the tannins something to react with besides your gums and teeth and to transform the drinking experience.