Patience: A Winemaking Necessity
Over the last ten year I have seen more and more wine enter the market to have me say, "Wow, is that already a such and such vintage?" I have already seen loads of 2010's on the market and it seems a huge majority of the wines on the market are 2009 both White and Red. I think about it and say (if from the Northern Hemisphere), "Hey this wine was only harvested about 21 months ago.
If you look at most of the old world, or traditionally crafted wines of the world you are just now seeing the 2008 reds hit the market and a mix bag of 2008 and 2009 whites. Are the younger wines here because of the want to maintain fresh primary fruit, or are they here because there is an urge to get some revenue from the wine the owner paid for over a year ago?
I am a huge fan of the school that believes wine requires patience to be truly great. When a wine is too young it full of energy and can have gobs of fruit. In my opinion, that fruit driven wine can often be one dimensional and can really mask some of the great complexities that the vineyard wants to show. This may be completely suited to some styles of wine like a village level Beajolais, or an entry level Shiraz when the focus is on that lush fruit that will seldom gain complexity and was never meant to be an expression of a great terroir or be the most "complex" wine. They are for sheer enjoyment and are not built to intrigue the senses.
Our traditional style of winemaking is simple. On average our reds spend between 20-30 days on the skins to get great extraction before being racked to barrels for 18-20 months to get the best integration and let the wine mature a little prior to being bottled. This also allows us to have a far "cleaner" wine at the time of bottling from better settling so we can bottle unfiltered. It is about a patient way of taking a minimalist approach. We then aim to allow the wine to rest in bottle atleast 12 months prior to release, as we believe it takes this long for the wine to truly recover from the aggression of bottling after being locked down for 18 months in a barrel. So in reality for our reds it normally takes almost three years before we believe it is ready to be show to the customer. With our single vineyard whites and Chardonnay it is a bit shorter, as we tend to only have a 10 month elevage because we don't want too much oak extraction. That will start to change as we get a better percentage of older oak from tje Jupilles forest to help with longer elevage and still getting less oak dominance. The whites are then held atleast 8 months prior to release for the same reasons as the reds, but with the short time in barrel they can handle a little less bottle time before they come back around.
The big reason that this intrigues me is that we are currently sold our of our 2009 Three Vineyards Chardonnay, Nevaeh White and Honah Lee White that were all released in April. Great problem to have, but still a problem. We will be bottling our 2010's of these wines in 5 weeks from now, and my thought is that many wineries would get them on their shelves right away to fill that void. Well, I question if this is a good idea. While it would be great to have the cash flow from selling these wines, I would be concerned that they just are not showing how we want them to show. At this point we are down to one white wine that we produced in our tasting room until April of next year if we don't release our single vineyard whites early. While we will be carrying some other whites from great friends
(Glen Manor Sauvignon Blanc 2009, 8 Chains North Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and Delaplane Maggies Vineyard Viognier 2008) to fill some of the void, I am anxcious to get our new Single Vineyard whites out there. I just don't think we should comprimise. I am also concerned our Nevaeh Red will be gone by the end of the summer only to be released around the same time next year.
So, as a consumer, do you believe it is better for you to be able to get our best white wines as soon as possible knowing that they do have limited quantities? Or, should we be sticking to our guns and only release the wines when we think they are ready to be released? It is a question so many wineries around the world have to ask themselves and it is the reason I think we are seeing more and more wines made for early release to keep sales rolling, instead of having some patience and offering what they believe is the very best wine.