New Cabernet 2014

Apologies, this post rambles a bit, I was enjoying a Fighting Gully Road Aquila and got carried away.  If you just want to buy the stuff this is where you go: NewCab14.  It is a new wine, and while it is the start of a new project for me, it is also the culmination of many years thinking about Yarra Cabernet.  I've made wine in this vein for myself before, but only in tiny quantities.

This cabernet is as far from the claret style as possible. Somewhat inspired by Anjou Villages Cabernets (Loire reds made with Cab franc and/or cab sauv), though this is made completely with carbonic maceration and released early in the style of Beaujolais. The fruit is from a 28 year old dry-grown vineyard in Kangaroo Ground.

Cabernet sauvignon has as much expression and character as any variety in the Yarra Valley. A lot of this character diminishes after a while in barrel, but the time in barrel is often necessary to soften the tannic nature of Cabernet. This version already has quite supple tannins thanks to the carbonic maceration.

There is no preservative (sulphur dioxide, SO2, preservative 220) added, and no animal products used, largely to make a wine for some friends of mine who struggle to find such wines. I hope they're not alone! However, I'm not intentionally moving toward 'natural wine', the wine was inoculated for both primary and malolactic fermentation. I was going for freshness and early bottling, so an early completion of malolactic fermentation was necessary.

While people have various reasons for being interested in preservative free wine, I was primarily interested in the flavour and structure of the wine. I often like the flavours in wine, particularly reds, before the preservative is added. Sulphur dioxide changes things; often for the better, but sometimes an interesting piece of the wine is obscured or lost. The goal was to capture the fleeting flavours that winemakers see every year, but rarely get to share.

This is the type of wine you can only make for yourself. If I bottled a wine in this state (without preservative) for an employer I'd probably receive a written warning, or worse. I have heard a quote that preservative free is the winemaking equivalent of climbing everest without oxygen. While this may be overly dramatic, the preservative is a crutch we rely on for most wines.

It's made for early drinking, and with no preservative I have no idea how long it will last. Enjoy it young.

Some thoughts on the vineyard:

The predominant Cabernet clone in the Yarra is SA125, and most of my experience with cabernet has been with this clone. It is widely considered the best clone in the Yarra for claret styles. The clone at the Kangaroo Ground vineyard appears to be different. It grows less upright and seems to have more rounded leaves. The most interesting feature is the flavour, in particular the underripe or leafy components. The less ripe flavours in SA125 are typical sauvignon; pyrazine or capsicum. The less ripe components from this vineyard are tobacco and earth. Closer to the Cabernet franc I'm used to. Cabernet sauvignon is a cross of Cabernet franc and Sauvignon blanc, so I guess it's no surprise that some clones express more sauvignon, and some more franc.

An aside, I find the varieties easier to pick from their less ripe components. Cabernet sauvignon: capsicum, cabernet franc: earth/tobacco, Merlot: marijuana (at least thats what I'm told), Shiraz: pepper.

Winemaking notes:

The fruit was harvested on 23rd March and de-stemmed into small fermenters. The berries were left whole as much as possible, which is quite effective with Cabernet as the skins are quite tough and the berries robust. An inoculation was made to the small amount of juice in the bottom of the fermenter. The intention was to get a quick start to fermentation so the carbon dioxide would protect the wine. I was comfortable with some aldehyde forming toward the end of ferment, but was trying to avoid early formation of volatile acidity as much as possible.

The fermenters were then covered and largely sealed, and left that way for 7 days, followed by pressing to tank. Two rackings followed prior to bottling in June.