Harvest has wound up, and with only a handful of ferments finishing up, the hustle and bustle in the winery is quieting down.
Saint Clair senior winemaker Hamish Clark says the majority of Saint Clair wines have been racked and sulphured, (vintners’ speak for extracting the wine from the tank and leaving the yeasty lees behind) and the winemaking team are preparing to grade some 140 Sauvignon Blanc ferments next week.
“We’re basically in clean up mode now,” says Hamish. “It’s a sad time of year as we say goodbye to most of our vintage interns who are either heading back home or travelling around New Zealand.”
Saint Clair red winemaker Kyle Thompson is pleased to have pressed the last of the red wine off its skins yesterday.
Unlike white wine varieties, red wines are left to ferment with their skins intact to extract certain characteristics, such as tannins, and of course the red colouring.
The wines are racked two or three times and assessed for relative quality. The best candidates are put to barrel for maturation during which time the wine undergoes a malolactic fermentation process, which imparts a rounder, fuller mouth feel to the finished product.
Kyle explains making the decision of when to press the wines off their skins is much like making a cup of tea – leave the tea bag in for too short a time and it’s tasteless, or too long a time and it’s stringent and unpleasant. To ensure the wines are pressed at just the right time, he’s been tasting the wines several times daily, looking for that “sweet spot”.
Meanwhile the team are adding the finishing touches to the low alcohol Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, which will be bottled in two or three weeks’ time.