All Bloodwood wines are bottled and packaged on-site at the winery using the excellent services of Des and Jean Proffit and their state-of-the-art vintage Vintage Bottling bottling line. No it's not a typo, they just don't do things by halves. This allows for complete control from our point of view in that the finished wine moves from a stainless steel tank within the winery, down the bottling and packaging line through sterile filtration, sparging, filling, screw capping, labelling, cartoning and final stacking in very quick order. It is then a matter of moving the finished pallets into our underground storage area so that they can recover from bottle shock and settle down before release. As the winemaker, I am able to monitor the whole process, analyse SO2 losses, if any, down the bottling line, and generally clucky hen our latest expression of our Bloodwood terrior safely into bottle.
This was not always the case...
There was a time when we used the services of distant bottling lines in the Hunter. This entailed transferring the wine into the cavernous tanks of a Hahn or The Booth Brothers B-Double behemoth, gassing the head space in each partially filled tank with CO2 or Nitrogen, sloshing the wine through a transport operation to Pokolbin which took anywhere between seven hours and several days; pumping the wine into remote bottling line storage tanks under ullage, sparging the contents for DO (dissolved oxygen ) and re-adjusting free sulfur levels over a couple of days before bottling. This was an extraordinary challenge even when everything went well. And that is all before the packaged wine had to make the perilous journey through the Blue mountains back home to Bloodwood. No wonder delicate wines lost some vibrancy and perfume during that arduous process, even when things went right.
However, more often than not, the transporting part of the deal went more or less wrong. Bloodwood winery is not designed for B-Double tankers. It is not designed for mechanical harvesters or aeriel spraying either. For those who know the vineyard, it is a fold towards the top of a hillside, partially overgrown with healthy stands of native Australian vegetation bordering the roads and sheltering the vineyard blocks. As a result, in negotiating the precincts, a Ute is fair enough; a straight-bed truck a challenge, and a B-Double tanker wishful thinking. When one of the green monsters was due to arrive, we would take a Chainsaw to the driveway so that they could not only find the entrance, but also with a bit of luck, torturously negotiate the winding track down to the winery.
It also became our plan to meet the driver in Orange before he headed out to Bloodwood with his tanker in tow, so that he (and yes it was always a he) knew the place before the attempted arrival. Indeed, my habit was to drive the driver through the property pointing out the challenges posed for the cabin jockeys. Yes, it would be a very good idea to only bring one tanker in at a time; yes we can use a tractor if your empty trailer is too difficult to reverse onto the gravel outside the winery, and by the way, we would strongly advise that you gun the prime-mover over the dam wall so you can actually sneak up on enough revs to make it up the other side..particularly if it rains. And rain it generally did. It seemed to us that, entirely on queue, the arrival of the stainless steel monsters was celebrated across the heavens by thunder and lightning closely attended by sleet and or a hail storm. The result was that the track out became even more problematic, unless the tanker drivers did what they were told to do.
We have a theory here at Bloodwood about truck drivers. Driving trucks against a hungry schedule and an ever more ravenous industry is undoubtedly a tough job. Often fueled by, ahem, substances and drizzled with hubris, they have to put up with being given the mechanical finger by every two-bit fork lift driver across this wide brown land.
No wonder they can be cranky blokes. This often results in your well meaning, precious, anxious and no doubt very odd winemaker's truck driving advice being laughed at from behind large, rumbling stomachs and crazed eyes. "Gun it over the dam wall? This bloody expletive deleted mother expletive deleted unit is 540 horse power of expletive deleted grunt you expletive deleted idiot. It will piss it in up your expletive deleted Sheila of a dam wall. Now I'm off to bed..wake me when you finally have your expletive deleted vinegar loaded." We did as requested, and after the mandatory sleet and mid-afternoon lightning storm abated, we bid a resigned farewell to our erudite companion, and waited for the expletive deleted grunt laden 540 horse power mother expletive deleted vinegar transporting wonder to whish our precious wine gently over the dam wall and up, up and away to its remote rendezvous with the Hunter Valley bottling line.
As the trailer and prime mover cautiously stalled under possibly too few revs and gently slid effortlessly backward down the exit track and the fully laden trailer came to rest precariously over the dam wall, we ignored the panicked expletive deleted wails from within the delicately balanced cabin of the truck. Rhonda said, what are we, (that's the royal " we" by the way) going to do? I replied, "We're country folk Rhonda. It's coming on towards dark; it's started to rain again, it could be quite icy out tonight....we're off to bed!
The seasoned wine maker can spot the problem here with little analysis. The truck is full to the hilt with premium fruit which has taken a year out of his or her life. The winery is just visible on the top left of the picture, and the cool stored whole bunch hand picked premium fruit has been travelling for around four hours on the back of this truck into the tropical climes of the Upper Hunter Valley. Judging by the moisture along the vine rows, there's been some sort of torrential downpour, and the truck driver has eased ever so slif\ghtly left to avoid the possible attentions of the whispy branches of the tree on the right. No amount of forward or backward horsepower will dislodge the truck without disloging the load. If the tarps are removed, the pallecons of fruit will join the first row of vines, and the angle of the tray makes it impossible to use a forklift to unload the fruit and relieve the situation. Meanwhile, the rain is returning, and the whole festering disasterous heap is getting on with ferment in the cosy warmth beneath the tarpaulins without us. Our salvation, and then it was a close run thing only a day or so away, appeared below in all its puffing yellow and black glory. Any guesses as to whether the truckie had transport insurance?
However, before I get transported against my will, it is always comforting to recall that comforting aphorism,
"the bigger they are, the harder they fall."