Too often we’re asked the question… “but what exactly is vintage”?
Vintage (in a nutshell) refers to the time of year when the grapes are ripe for the picking and are made into the finished product we lovingly know as wine.
Different grape varieties ripen at different times and in the final weeks before ripening, grapes are closely monitored by the viticulturist who will be checking the appearance and taste, as well as the chemistry behind the ripening (ie, testing the pH and total acidity levels which should be rising and dropping respectively). Once the grapes are ready, it’s all hands on deck!
Margaret River’s beloved Chardonnay grape is generally the first variety to ripen. At Lentedal our chardonnay is the first cab off the rank, with the first grapes picked for our Blanc de Blanc as sparkling requires higher acid and lower sugar levels, followed closely by the remaining chardonnay which goes into our single vineyard chardonnay.
Harvesting (or picking) of the grapes is generally done in the early hours of the morning to ensure that the grapes are cold which will delay any onset of spontaneous fermentation before they reach the winery. Cold fruit also allows the Winemaker to control the beginning of the fermentation process – and fermentation is where the magic happens!!
White varietals are destemmed then gently crushed forming grape must, which is then pumped into a press, which can be old school like a basket press or modern pneumatic bag press. The press then extracts the juice from the must and is then pumped to tank for primary fermentation. For varieties such as chardonnay, the winemaker may choose to press the whole bunches thus avoiding the crusher/destemmer entirely, this method results in the gentler extraction of phenolics (flavours) with the juice then being transferred straight to barrel or tank for fermentation to kick off!
Red varieties differ in that they are traditionally destemmed and crushed then pumped straight into red fermenters with their skins and seeds for primary fermentation to take place, it is the skin that holds the secret to all the delicious flavours and colours that are synonymous to red wine!
Primary fermentation is where yeast converts the sugars into alcohol, for red varieties once primary fermentation is complete they will be pressed off and pumped into barrels or tank to undergo secondary fermentation which is known as Malolactic Fermentation (MLF). MLF is when the harsher malic acid in the red wine is converted to the more mellow lactic acid resulting in softer and more desirable reds. At Lentedal, our Cabernet will remain in new and old barrels for at least 12 months before it goes to bottle.
The process for white wine will be dependent on variety, for example chardonnay which is our signature white variety will undergo partial malolactic fermentation which contributes to the quintessential chardonnay flavours resulting in a creamy and textural mouthfeel.
Depending on the style of the wine, the aging process or maturation spent in barrel will vary greatly. The maturation process allows for the polymerization or softening of tannins and once the wine is deemed ready by the Winemaker, it is blended and prepped for bottling. Once bottled and labelled, it’s not long before the wine can be enjoyed by you!