09 Oct 2017 Chardonnay
We have had a number of questions recently asking why some Chardonnay’s have so much texture, but other Chardonnay’s and varieties don’t. When we are speaking of texture, we are referring to all those wine terms like mouth-feel, body, weight and viscosity... even fatness... it can be considered a good thing to call a wine fat, unlike my dog, who I called fat the other night and he bit me, I think there was a dog biscuit in my back pocket... anyway back to the story.
There are a number of reasons that could lead to a wine having texture or weight, and many of these come from fermentation properties. However a significant factor in making a wine of this style is what the French term ‘bâtonnage’. We fancy Tasmanian’s prefer to term it ‘barrel stirring’.
It is simply the process of stirring the lees in the barrel, which is made up of small particles of grape pulp and skins, and the yeast that fermented the wine. As these particles break down in the wine, they release polysaccharides and amino acids, which are perceived in our tastebuds and palate as textural and full bodied. So stirring gets all those particles in contact with the juice/wine and increases the surface ratio, so they get more of an impact.
There are many types of tools you can use to stir the lees; we use a simple stainless steel curved rod. We do this process twice a week for up to two months, depending on the wine. We even had some perspex fronted barrels made so we could see the impact of the stirring, so we would know how often to stir, as the lees are heavy and eventually settle back to the bottom of the barrel when not in suspension.
As with all things there is a delicate balancing act, as stirring is also introducing oxygen to the wine as well as particular flavours and aromatics. You can have too much of a good thing, or can you?
- Winemaker Stew
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370 Relbia Rd
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