20 Mar 2017 winery
There have been some great duos scattered throughout history. Two individuals that when working together far exceed the sum of their parts. Abbott & Costello, Simon & Garfunkle, Caesar & Cleopatra, Punch & Judy, Rudd & Gillard... maybe strike that last one...
Anyway, we have our own duo here at the winery that have been working together throughout the years, helping to craft our wines to precision. Paul (Skipper) Barron and Bernard (Bernie) Longshaw together have close to 50 years experience working in wineries, undertaking the daily activities that keep the winery and the wines going.
While these two have spent many years working together, they couldn’t be any more different in almost every aspect. One is tall, the other is not so tall. One is precise and methodical, the other is fast and spontaneous. One is affable, the other is a bit of a grump. One likes ACDC, the other likes Jethro Tull. One has a red beard, the other has a white moustache.
What they do have in common is a vast array of experience, which means they know their way around virtually any equipment or piece of machinery in the winery. Having good cellar workers makes the world of difference for winemakers, in that we can trust them with the wines, and if there is a better way for something to be done, they will find it. Here at Josef Chromy, we are lucky to have two such employees, and that is something that other wineries would be envious of.
So if you see Paul or Bernie around, make sure you say hi, as they both love to have a chat and tell a story... that is one thing that they do have in common.
- Winemaker Stew
A South African, Israeli, Argentinian, Frenchman, New Zealander and Australian walk into a bar... it sounds like the beginnings of a bad joke, but hopefully not, as this will be a common occurrence come late February as our vintage crew arrives in Tasmania.
Vintage is a very high pressure time at the winery, so we require a highly skilled team to help us every year for eight to ten weeks. This year, there will be six people joining us from around the world. All of them have either qualifications in winemaking, or at least four years' experience working in high quality wineries.
The first weeks of March should see the first fruit of the 2017 vintage coming in. As you might imagine, it is all systems go here at the winery and in the vineyard, getting everything ready for another harvest.
The season so far has been relatively cool, especially in comparison to the past two years. The large volume of rainfall throughout Spring and into early Summer set the vines up for good growth, and filled the water storage capacity to a maximum, meaning water supply for irrigation should not be an issue for many vineyards throughout Tasmania.
Fruit set at this stage appears to be moderate, and when combined with some strong winds during flowering, it looks as though bunch weights may also be below average. This will in all likelihood result in a relatively small vintage in 2017. So we will be hoping for a quality over quantity outcome. The vineyard team are hard at work ensuring that this eventuates, by slashing, trimming, shoot positioning and leaf plucking to allow the optimum airflow and sunlight into the vines.
Here at the winery we are busy getting all of our remaining 2016 vintage wines into bottle, all the while waiting in anticipation for some new toys to arrive. Local stainless steel manufacturer Kolmark are building some new tanks for us, and we are waiting on a shiny new grape press to arrive from Germany. These are exciting times, but we have one eye on the clock in a race to get everything completed before the first fruit arrives. Then the real fun begins!
... it was 2005. It wasn’t that long ago, but seeing as everyone is getting excited about the new Star Wars movie, I thought we would jump on the bandwagon.
So what was happening in 2005? Well Saddam Hussein was still alive, there were some appalling riots in Cronulla, Hurricane Katrina led to devastation in New Orleans, one billion less people inhabited the Earth, iPhones did not exist, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston got divorced and John Farnham was in retirement.
It was also the year that we bottled our 2005 Zdar Vintage Sparkling. So while the events of the past ten years have been going by (for better or for worse) this wine has been happily sitting in our cellars on lees under 7 bar of pressure, maturing and building toasty complexity, waiting to be unleashed on the world. You can read how these wines are made from our blog post back in October 2014 HERE.
Only 380 bottles of this wine have been made, and we don’t imagine they will be around for very long. The wine displays all the classic hallmarks of late disgorged sparkling wines. Toasty yeast complexity and a rich creamy palate, and with the vineyard’s signature citrus acidity running through the middle.
These are the wines that Tasmania excels at producing, as anyone who attended Effervescence 2015 could attest to.
We will be releasing the 2005 ZDAR Sparkling to our Gold and Silver Club Members first, and then available to all wine club members. If you are interested in purchasing please send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stewart Byrne, Winemaker
04 Sep 2015 winery
So spring is here, and as the name suggests, the vineyard is ready to spring to life. There could be some nervous moments over the next few months, as it appears we are heading into one of the strongest El Nino events in recent history. This means we are in for an extended dry spell, and the risks of major frost events are more likely. Our vineyard is generally protected from significant loss from frosts due to the air drainage from the hills, however we have lost some crop in the past, and will be on the lookout for any reoccurrence. I have generously offered our Vineyard Manager a hairdryer and extension cord from my house, so he can walk up and down the rows at 4am... he thought I was joking, however he is yet to realise that we have already spent his entire budget on oak barrels for next year, so he won’t be getting that helicopter anytime soon.
Down here in the winery we have been busy putting our last aromatic whites into bottle, whilst trying to stay warm. Some of the winery lads have resorted to wearing two pairs of socks and gloves. I suggested that they do what I did and turn the aircon up a notch, to which they were none too pleased.
One of those wines we are bottling now is the 2015 Fume Blanc. This wine is basically a Sauvignon Blanc that has been treated similarly to a Chardonnay. Our 2015 Fume Blanc was whole bunch pressed to French oak barrels, inoculated with two different yeasts, one half for fruity aromatics, the other for texture and mouth-feel, and fermented in barrel. The barrels were then stirred three times a week for two months, and then aged for a further three months prior to bottling. The stirring or bâtonage in French (things always sound more fancy in French), builds more complexity into the wine resulting in toasty, creamy and nutty characters. The result is an interesting combination of flavours. An interesting exercise is to drink a Sauvignon Blanc and a Fume Blanc from the same producer (cough cough... us...) to see the differences first hand. The Sauvignon Blanc is purely about fruit expression, while the Fume Blanc is all about the winemaker’s intervention, and shaping the wine stylistically into a different form.
There are a select number of other Tasmanian producers doing Fume Blanc’s including Frogmore Creek, Domaine A and Delamere. They are typically great value for money, and are a different take on an old favourite. We only make a small number of barrels, so it will be available through our cellar door and some limited outlets later this month. Keep an eye out.
Stewart Byrne - Winemaker
19 Jun 2015 winery
The powers that be (aka Abbey upstairs in the marketing room), have asked me to do a quick vintage report, to let you know what has been going on here in the winery over the past three months. This got me wondering whether people generally know what vintage refers to. So here are a few definitions from some of our most trusted sources.
Cambridge Dictionary - ‘of high quality and lasting value, or showing the best and most typical characteristics of a particular type of thing, especially form the past’.
Oxford Dictionary - ‘The year or place in which wine, especially wine of high quality, was produced’.
Josef Chromy Dictionary - ‘A two to three month period of total chaos, where all the fruit comes in, everybody runs around in circles, nobody gets any sleep, things often break down, and you forget what your husband/wife’s name is as you haven’t seen them in so long... which leads to two to three more months of the same again minus the fruit’.
From this broad array of definitions, the third describes most accurately what we refer to in the Australian wine industry when we talk about vintage. Our North American friends refer to this period as ‘Harvest’... why they would want to give it a clear, logical and accurate name is beyond me... after all, it is an unwritten rule that we are supposed to confuse the public at every given opportunity, to make you believe that what we do is magical and mysterious. So vintage it is.
The first question we usually get asked following vintage is whether it was a good vintage. From listening to the media over the years, you have probably realised that the answer to this question is always yes. The truthful answer is that it is often too early to tell. The wines still have a long period in which to form and develop, and numerous processes to go through before they are released. Of course we have a good idea which wines are going to be exceptional and which are going to need work, and this is what we undertake over the following period of time. Highlighting the strengths and minimising the deficiencies in each particular wine. This is really what winemakers are paid to do. There are a myriad of winemaking techniques we can undertake, some simple and some more complex, however that is a discussion for another day.
So back to the original question, how was the vintage? It is safe to say that at this early stage, we are very happy with the results. Quality looks to be good (usually expected in Tasmania), however the yields were also back up to normal levels, which will have winemakers and growers across the State breathing a sigh of relief, as 2014 was very low yielding, and consequently we didn’t make any money... sorry Joe.
We are pretty excited about our Chardonnay’s this year, they have lots of texture and complexity. We purchased a few perspex fronted wine barrels so we could observe what goes on inside the barrel at different stages of the year, as you can see in the top video where we are filling some Chardonnay juice into them ready for ferment.
We had a great vintage crew of six this year who came to work at the winery, coming from Canada, New Zealand, England, Czech Republic and Australia. Travelling nationally and internationally undertaking vintages is a great way to build up experience and see a range of winemaking techniques, and is a rite of passage for most graduate winemakers. Having a good crew can make or break your vintage, and when this crew weren’t helping the guys at Saint John’s Craft Beer Bar empty their kegs, they did some excellent work.
Stewart Byrne - Winemaker
18 Mar 2015 winery
Have you seen the latest Tourism Tasmania video with our Chief Winemaker, Jeremy Dineen
“Bubble bubble toil and trouble”... A Macbeth misquote I hear you say, well yes it is, but it is also the first thing that springs to mind when October rolls around, and we start looking at tiraging our sparkling wines. Tirage refers to the process where we put the bubbles into the bottle and it is an intense period of the winery year, where if mistakes happen, you’ll find me at the insurance agent significantly increasing my “accidental” death and injury policy.
Let us go back to the beginning of the sparkling wine production process. The first step is the production of a sparkling base wine. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and to a lesser extent, Pinot Meunier, are the three grape varieties predominantly used in Tasmania for sparkling wine. They each provide different characteristics and are often used in combination. Generally speaking, Pinot Noir provides body and lifted red berries aromatics, Chardonnay brings the citrus and long crisp acid profile, and Pinot Meunier provides richness and advanced ageing characters.
The grapes are harvested relatively early to attain the fresh acidity, and are fermented to form a base wine with low alcohol (10.0 to 11%). There are numerous stylistic options during this period, that help determine the house style of the sparkling, including juice oxidation, barrel ferments, yeast selection, malolactic fermentation, and lees stirring. We often create numerous sparkling base wines from multiple years with different characteristics, so we can blend our master base wines with the properties we are looking for.
Now we have reached October, and the tricky part begins... tirage. This involves adding yeast and sugar to the base wine, so a secondary ferment can begin and give us the bubbles in the bottle. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It can be if you use the easy methods. Those five dollar bottles of passionpop we all remember from our youth... I did say youth... are made in a similar way as the trusty household sodastream. Other cheap sparkling wines are made using large pressurised tanks to undertake the secondary ferment, known as the ‘Charmat’ method. However the great sparklings undertake the secondary ferment in the bottle, and this method is known as Methode Champenoise or Traditional Method.
The yeast culture must be built over an eight day period to acclimatise to the base wine, as simply throwing the yeast into a wine with 11% alcohol will result in yeast shock, and not enough will survive to ferment the sugars. Once we have a healthy yeast culture, we add the correct amount of sugar to the base wine to achieve the final bottle pressure we are after (typically 6 to 7 bar), and add the yeast. The yeast must also be an exact quantity, so the secondary ferment completes over an extended period, as it effects the condition of the sparkling bubbles or beading. This involves counting the yeast over a 24hr period through a microscope, to ensure the correct amount is present in the wine. Finally we bottle the wine under a crown seal, and let the fermentation take its course.
Unlike table wines, you only get one chance for the ferment to be successful, as the wine is in bottle and you cannot add more yeast. Decanting the wine and starting again will also not work, as the alcohol level would be too high if it goes through another fermentation. So like Eminem said, we get one chance, one shot, which is why everything is undertaken with meticulous detail. It feels wrong to quote a rapper when discussing sparkling, but they are big supporters of the ‘bub’, so we want to stay in their good books.
After fermenting the sugars, the yeast continue to be useful as they break down in the wine, which is called ‘yeast autolysis’, and this provides bottle fermented sparkling with unique flavours and texture. The longer the sparkling is left on the yeast lees, the more of these characters will integrate into the sparkling. So time spent on lees is very much dependent on wine style. At Josef Chromy Wines, our non-vintage sparkling typically spends 24 months on lees, while our vintage sparkling (currently 2008) has spent 6 years on lees.
Finally it is time to release the wines for sale, however the yeast lees must first be removed from the wine. To do this we riddle the bottles, or in simple terms, turn them upside down so all the yeast moves into the neck of the bottle. We then freeze the neck, and in a process called ‘disgorging’, pop the crown seal off the bottle, taking the frozen lees with it. We then add a small amount of liqueur to provide some sugar to balance the acidity and to top the bottle up. The bottle is subsequently corked and labelled.
The vast majority of sparkling wines that come from Tasmania are made in this traditional method, and many are considered to be amongst the best in the world. An event on this weekend at Josef Chromy Wines called ‘Effervescence Tasmania’ provides the opportunity to taste some of these great wines coming out of Tasmania. All of the great Tasmanian sparkling houses will be in attendance including Arras, Jansz, Clover Hill, Kreglinger and Apogee, and numerous masterclasses will be conducted by some of the best in the business. So come along and enjoy some of our island State’s greatest export. I promise there will be no Eminem played at the Saturday night party.
Stewart Byrne, Winemaker
Welcome to the inaugural ‘What we get up to in the winery and vineyard throughout the year update’. I’m sure the Marketing team will come up with a catchier title, ... that’s why they get paid the big bucks.
So it is now mid-September and the vineyard team is just finishing pruning for the year. The cold winter nights are very important for the vineyard, as they allow the vines to go into dormancy, and focus on storing carbohydrates in the roots and trunk for next years growth. This unfortunately means that the vineyard team are not being able to feel their fingers and toes for three months. The end is in sight however, and now the race is on to finish the last few blocks before budburst.
Here at the winery, we are busy bottling our 2014 aromatic whites such as the Riesling and the Pinot Gris. So we have been blending all our components together after rigorous tasting sessions. Some would suggest that we always seem to be undertaking tasting sessions, and that we just use them as an excuse to drink. We take our tasting sessions very seriously...... all 365 of them... three times daily.
The wines need to be stabilised and filtered prior to being released, and by stabilising, we are referring to stabilisation to extreme heat or cold. If a wine is not cold stabilised, it can develop small crystals in the bottle, if it gets too cold in your fridge. These crystals are harmless, and are derived from potassium which comes from the grapes. However, we can initiate this process in the winery by holding the wine at very low temperatures so it occurs in winery tanks, rather than in the bottle. The same thing applies to heat stabilisation, where a wine can become hazy if a similar process is not applied. This is all done so the wines look clear and bright. We all know it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but we are a little bit vain in regards to our wines, and like them to look pretty too. I was going to insert something here about dogs looking like their owners, however I just looked over our profile pictures and thought it would work against the explanation... I digress.
It is also time to start racking Pinot Noir barrels in the winery. By this I mean pump the wine out of the barrels into a tank, and then return it back to the barrels. Why you ask? Well, the main reason is to take the wine off lees, and to give the wine some air. These lees are wine solids that settle down in the wine, and can make the wine reductive if left too long. So we take the wine out, wash the barrels, and return the wine back to the barrels. How often we do this depends on the wine type and style. However for Pinot Noir, it typically occurs twice over 12 months.
It is very important to look after barrels in the winery, as oak is a common site for spoilage through bacteria. At Josef Chromy we only use French oak barriques, predominantly from the forests surrounding Burgundy. Each empty barrel costs approximately $1300 to purchase... I know, crazy isn’t it, however good oak makes a big difference to wine, and in Tasmania we are dealing with some of the best fruit in the world.
I think that will be enough for our inaugural update. After this effort I doubt I will be invited to do the next one. It’s a bit like when my wife asks me to do the ironing, and I do such a bad job she doesn’t let me do it next time... incompetent she calls it... I call it genius.
Stewart Byrne, Winemaker
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Cellar Door - Open 7 days 10am - 5pm
Restaurant - Lunch daily 11.45am - 2.30pm
(Closed Christmas Day)
370 Relbia Rd
Relbia TAS 7258
03 6335 8700