The winery is our playground. We like to have fun.
We make our wine in Newham, at Hanging Rock Winery. There are a few reasons for this:
- We grew out of our little tin shed in Knowsley. This is where Peter Armstead, the previous owner of our property, made all of his wine from 2003 - 2017. However, when we embarked on this adventure, we (crazily) decided to take on an extra 5 tonne of fruit (in 2018) and the little shed just wouldn't have cut it for 15 tonne of fruit we crushed.
- I have been able to work alongside some incredible winemakers to learn from them and also get help when things go a little pear shaped. These guys are:
- Rob Ellis, the chief winemaker at Hanging Rock Winery, has incredible knowledge and experience, that he is willing to share and pass on. A great friend too, we always enjoy a bottle (or few) together.
- Etienne Mangier, who was the Assistant Winemaker at Hanging Rock Winery up until the end of vintage 2021, but who also owns and runs North Wine, a boutique label out of the Macedon Ranges focusing on premium natural wines. Eddy's passion for wine is contagious.
Deciding when to pick the grapes is one of the most critical jobs of all. The ripeness of the fruit, including the sweetness and acidity level, ultimately determines the type of wine we will make.
There are many factors at play when determining when to pick. The most crucial of these is the weather, as heavy rain just prior to picking can dilute flavour, send sugar levels backwards and even result in split berries and bunch rot. Similarly, a sudden heat wave may swiftly increase sugar levels, without allowing the flavour to develop in the berry. In other words, a high alcohol wine without much flavour. Therefore, when deciding the day to pick, the weather forecast is essential.
To me, whilst numbers (baumé and acidity readings) are important, the flavour in a berry sample is paramount.
As for vinification, it's very much dependent upon the vintage and grapes as they arrive to the winery. I sometimes adjust acidity to keep freshness in the wine, although aim to do this as little as possible.
Most of my wines are naturally fermented, although some are inoculated if I'm concerned about a stuck ferment. I use a combination of vessels for my ferments: stainless, oak barriques and puncheons and most recently, amphora. I occasionally cold soak the grapes (prior to fermentation) to enhance colour and flavour and the length of maceration depends on the wine. I closely monitor the temperature during vinification to ensure colour, tannin, aroma and flavour is not lost.
Some of my wines are aged in barrel, whilst others are bottled straight away. We regularly use natural cork, as I believe there's a real sense of occasion opening a bottle of wine with an old fashioned corkscrew. Natural cork also lets the wine "breathe" during aging.
In terms of our labels, I have loved working with various artists, illustrators and graphic gurus to create an eclectic range. As every vintage is different and no two wines the same, it's been fun to collaborate with different and talented people.