Can a bunch of curious, enthusiastic amateurs make a truly special wine?
Always keen to share our love of wine, and the magical process of turning simple grapes into something wonderful, each year we gather a “class” of about twenty “Curious Winemakers” to take the journey from vineyard to bottle.
After a “Summer School” tasting the differences in suggested wines, to learn the impact of climate, oak, alcohol and variety, it’s off to the vineyard, where the real journey begins. Amongst the vines we learn about the ripening process, testing sugar and alcohol, tasting the nuances in different blocks of the vineyard. We plan which fruit to pick, and with twenty enthusiastic pairs of hands at work, the grapes are soon picked and brought back to Ballarat within hours.
For small-batch winemaking like this, it’s back to all the old practices. Yep, the best way to crush our Shiraz bunches is with the crushers on the end of our legs! Pigeage is the age-old practice of jumping into the fermenter and gently breaking up the berries with our heels and toes. It doesn’t hurt that this is also one of the most fun parts of the job!
After two weeks fermentation, we load up the old wooden basket press and with plenty of shared muscle, press off our wine; delicious, bright, peppery and fruity, into the oak barrel for further maturation through the year.
Throughout the whole process, Curious Winemakers, taste the progress, and decide on nuances of the final product. The project is a democracy: questions of fruit choice, winemaking techniques and even labels are settled with online voting.
Bottling day is another messy, fun and chaotic day where the magic all finally comes together. The wine is bottled, corked, labelled and of course thoroughly tasted, before the Curious Winemakers head off with a dozen great examples of the fruits of their labours.
And the result? Well, it’s not just plonk! Gourmet Traveller’s wine expert Mike Bennie took a look at the Curious Winemaker 2015 Shiraz:
“Good drink. Feels comfortable in its skin. Basil on red fruit coulis, sweet scents, spicy, herbal, sniff of pepper. All good… It’s a really nice drink here. 90 points”