It’s that time of year where there is a quiet nervous excitement buzzing around all wineries in the northern hemisphere.
Cellars are receiving their last deep clean, stainless steel tanks are being polished and pumps are being primed and tested in anticipation for the coming harvest.
Harvest time for a winemaker is without doubt, the most intense and stressful three months of the year. Will there be a last minute storm? Weather patterns are checked and forecasts scrutinised. 24 hours can be the difference for the grape on the vine to reach its full phenolic ripeness.
From working a number of harvests (in both the northern and southern hemispheres) this period is the calm before the storm. We would take grape samples from the vine, bag them up and bring them back to the lab for final analysis; mashing the berries up with our fists and testing the juice for total acidity, sugar and pH. The results of this process dictate to the winemaker when the grapes should be harvested, weather it be by hand or by machine, dusk or dawn.
There is a ‘work hard play hard’ infectious ethic amongst the industry at this time of year. Everybody puts in 12-18 hour shifts at times without rest for up to a month. But seeing the results of your blood, sweat and tears (of joy) has got be one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences I will ever encounter.
This was particularly poignant for myself in the Douro Valley, Portugal. I spent two and a half months in the central hub of Port production, Pinhao. A small town angled on the corner of the stunning Douro River some 100km straight east of Porto itself.
I was making wine for the legendary Quinta da Boavista- formerly owned by SoGrape- who boast prolific brands like Offley and Sandeman Port-houses. Now under the ownership of Tony Smith and his well established Quinta de Covela (in store this September) in the Vinho Verde region to the west.
I would be out in the vineyard at 6am, with a team that personified up to three generations of viticulture. Grandfathers tutor their grandchildren in the ways of the vine whilst I desperately tried to interpret.
When the grapes were ready, they were loaded onto a horse and cart and taken off to the winery.
Things are quite different in Marlborough, New Zealand, It’s a bit more mechanical, and certainly less traditional- which is fine seeing as they have not been making wine as long as Europe, or most of the New world. Nevertheless there is rigorous prep for the coming harvest, and one thing that does not change wherever you go in the world of wine, is the pre and post vintage BBQ’s and party’s.
This month at the M Wine Store, we have the best eclectic sales mix in the capital. From Tuscany to Japan, France to Argentina, just to name a few. We are paying tribute to all of those winemakers, cellar hands and vineyard workers preparing for the 2016 Vintage. Come along to the store to see what is on offer.
All the wines below are available to buy online and in the M Wine Store. Don’t forget this is jus a few of many. Click on the links to follow them to the M Wine Store webpage…
Querciabella Batar, 2012/13, Chardonnay, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy
One of the best Italian white wines I have ever tasted. Chardonnay dominant with a small dose of Pinot Blanc. Lots of heavy oak influence; honey, candied almonds and beeswax on the nose. The palate is long a focused with superb weight and balance with a very long, luscious finish. Not too many left in the shop so make sure you grab one soon!
Le Volte dell’Ornellaia, 2013, Tuscany, Italy (3L)
The third wine from the Tuscan giants. This three liter bottle also comes in standard size (also on sale) but the larger format is perfect for dinner parties and entertaining- plus it looks great! A classic Bordeaux style wine, lots of big black fruits on the nose and palate. Drinking well now and the advantage of buying a double magnum is its potential for ageing. Wine in larger bottles ages more gracefully than smaller formats
Hugel & Fils, 1998, Riesling, Selection de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
£160.00 OR two for £250.00
Packed with flavour and intensity, floral notes of herbal tea, white flowers and stoned fruits dominate the nose and palate. The mouth feel is viscous and full bodied with wonderful acidity for its age. An absolute gem from this legendary, iconic producer. Drinking on top form until 2020!
Thanks for reading and happy drinking!
M Wine Store