By Gary Heaven
We normally have our first fire in Easter. By then the nights are pretty chilly and often we have just finished picking the last of the red grapes. Earlier in the day we will have carefully selected our stewing meat, prepared the stove top casserole and by the time the winery is all cleaned up after the day’s harvest, dinner will be ready.
This year has not been one of those years. So far, Easter is about the only thing that has happened early this vintage. Late summer rains and the non-cyclone Pam have put the brakes on an otherwise most excellent growing season. While this presents some challenges, it is not all bad news. These sorts of growing seasons can leave us with some nice elegant wines that we have seen blossom with the benefit of some bottle age.
By now, most wineries in the Matakana region will have picked their white grapes and will be busy with tank and barrel ferments. The red varieties take a little longer to ripen and when they come in the winemaker has a bit more work to do. The majority of Matakana red wines are fermented with their skins in open top vats. The fermentation process produces gas that cases these skins to float to the surface of the vats and form a cap. If left unchecked, the top of these will oxidise and start on the process of turning into vinegar – a flavour we really don’t want to see in our red wines. To counter this, the winemaker works around the clock plunging down the ferment caps every six to eight hours. Thus, is the winemaker’s equivalent of changing the baby’s nappies.
As a cellar door visitor you have the opportunity of being part of this process at many of the Matakana cellar doors.
Ransom Wines, Mahurangi River, Hyperion and Omaha Bay are all making their wines within a nose’s reach of their cellar doors this vintage. If you turn up at just the right time you may be given the chance to help plunge a red wine ferment but you will certainly be able to catch a glimpse and smell the smells of the upcoming 2015 vintage wines.
That glass of Matakana wine that you enjoy, as you sit in front of the fire this coming winter with your hearty stew and crusty bread, could very well be the one that you have been personally involved in its making.