Learning how to blend wine
Back at the Winery!
What better way to spend our first weekend outside the “Ring of Steel” than back at Austin’s for our Blending Workshop??
I’m certainly not the only one that wasn’t holding out hopes that we’d be able to do this one in person. Plans were made for us poor Melbournian lockdownees to do our Workshop 4 inside the ROS – but as luck would have it, our parole and rejoinder to the rest of Victoria happened just in time.
Saturday November 14 dawned bright and windy. I hadn’t driven my car further than the local Coles (apx 1.2km) in months. I had my mask, hand sani and closed toe shoes ready to go. It felt like Christmas morning.
Our workshop began with a “Melbourne quality” coffee (for the coffee drinkers) and a slightly awkward re-introduction to our old Rent a Vine compatriots who were mostly almost impossible to recognise behind their various COVID safe facewear (which, I will state with absolute certainty, is impossible to drink wine through).
We met our new fearless leader, Dwayne Cunningham, newly minted Austin’s Head Winemaker, and before we knew it, were being ushered back into the place we’d all been dreaming about for the past four months in lockdown – the winery!
When it comes to the final product that we all love so, Blending plays an absolutely vital role! Virtually every wine that passes your lips has been blended to some extent (yes – even those made from a single grape variety!). For the most part – blending is done to improve the wine and add complexity, balance or ageability, which I think we can all agree is a good thing, right?
Blends can be made up wine from different barrels, different batches (alternate harvest times), different clones, different varieties (eg. sometimes white is used to soften a red) and different vintages.
We could talk blending for hours, the differences between blending a single varietal wine and a “blended” wine (eg. Champagne, Bordeaux, a Barossa GSM) could fill a TED talk, but our focus at RAV2020 is Pinot Noir (and our Pinot will be 100% Pinot), so we’ll leave you with the fun fact that the Label Integrity Program (LIP) in Australia states that to label a wine, it must make up 85% of what’s in the bottle. So – a winemaker can blend 15% of a different vintage or variety without it affecting the label.
And our new friend Dwayne, is a big believer in blind tasting to blend.
So, the time has come to re-taste those baby wines we first tasted all those months ago via zoom, and make some final decisions.
Remember how last time everyone’s favourite was “B” and I told y’all I was prepared to fight to the death for my right to drink option “C” for all eternity? Turns out, after a few more months of development, a new favourite had emerged…
But regardless of how extremely smart and talented I am (and you must know that I am) and how this time Option 2 (aka last time’s “C”) was the clear favourite, this session was all about the blends. And it is actually mind blowing how much difference changing 5-10% of a blend can make.
Using a combination of barrels, clones and levels of oak, Dwayne offered up some mouth-watering combinations – 15% of this, 25% of that, a little dash and another splash (it was actually all very scientific and mathematically accurate and involved beakers, which you know means this stuff is proper science) – and we were presented with a choice of suddenly rich, complex, taste bud tingling, fruit flavour explosion juices that threatened to make us all weak at the knees.
Blending, my friends, is where it’s at.
The competition is now on between Blend B and Blend C. As it stood by the end of the Saturday workshop (which, by the way culminated in a veritable feast catered by There Café in Footscray) the results were harder to certify than the Georgia electoral college results and we shall have to wait for the Sunday mail in ballots before a winner can be determined.
My preferences were leaning C-wards, but whichever way we go – I can’t wait to get my hands on those 2 dozen bottles coming our way before Christmas.
Eli would like everyone to note, for the record, that she correctly identified the tasters from the last workshop in this edition’s blind tasting and that three brownies was a just and deserved reward.
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