What's there to say about our notorious Chirac that hasn't been said already? A blend of 40%Pinot Noir and 60%Chardonnay made into a lively fizz in the normal methode Champenoise fashion, it is an Australian sparkling white with the finesse and clarity of expression we strive for in all our Bloodwood wines Now, this clarity and finesse just doesn't happen as a matter of course, of course. Only in exceptional vintages do we attempt the ludicrous economic folly of making a fizz with such an explosive impact, but when we occasionally do, you'll be the first to hear about it. And with four years on lees between vintage ignition and eventual dosage detonation we'll all be in need of a good drink. Rhonda recommends serving with goats cheese yellowcake buiscuits as above! Enjoy.
Wine styles blog
Some wines really annoy me when I attempt to make them, some annoy other people who work with them with me. Silly little super late harvest stickies annoy all of us all of the time. Except when I eventually get around to enjoying a glass. If the seasonal outlook is OK, and I haven't been strong enough in ever so subtly suggesting my total aversion to the prospect of making another late harvest Riesling, about 20 % of the Riesling vineyard is left to rot. Now that would be fine by me. There's only a slim chance that the grapes will survive into late June or early July without storm and pestilence smashing them to pulp, so I'm not really committing to anything certain to happen. It's only happened a few times since Bloodwood arose from the lice ridden drought afflicted sheep emporium it was before we got here, but unfortunately the chances are increasing lately. You see, with global warming and climate change, it is no longer remotely possible that I will be able to replicate the 1994 Ice Riesling, so we've had to rely on the grapes slowly being affected by spasmodic botrytis infection and gradual de-hydration through early winter frosts and snow falls.
But here's the rub... dry autumns and early winter periods are perfect for this style of wine. Given the birds leave some fruit for us, the press is wheeled out and the whole process begins again... it's like a second miniature vintage when all I want to do is find somewhere quiet and dark to sleep of the previous three or four months of extremis. But when it works, it is probably worth the hassle. The Silk purse is usually around 10% alcohol and somewhere around 160 gms/litre residual in the bottle. It really is a slightly complicated essence of riesling with good clean acidity balancing the more or less zippy Riesling fruit, and it is as delicious as it is annoying.
Rhonda recommends fruit based desserts like red berries and lime pannacotta, mangoes with passionfruit sorbet, apple tarts, fresh figs stuffed with fresh goat's curd and a drizzle of light honey, then a good lie down.
As stated elsewhere, all our vines are hand-pruned and hand-picked by human beings and Stephen. This is an expensive and painstaking business requiring quite a lot of knowledge of each vineyard, (indeed each vine in the case of annual pruning) and a sound idea of the style of wine we are attempting to make in the winery. We want the wine to express the Bloodwood style, the vineyard, the environment and the variety within the limitations and vagaries of each season as it evolves. When we open a bottle, of, say Bloodwood Cabernet Sauvignon, we want that bottle to remind us the evolution of the wine and the year from which it was produced.
Bloodwood wines are made entirely from grapes grown on our Griffin Road Vineyards, Orange. Although each vintage in this cool area presents its own natural challenges our aim is to produce wines which are of a consistently high quality and which are identifiably Bloodwood in style. During the processing and maturation of each wine, every effort is made to ensure that the innate regional characteristics of the fruit are protected. To this end, sulfur additions are kept to a necessary minimum and great care is taken to protect each wine from unnecessary oxidation and handling during its sometimes Slow maturation.
The Bloodwood Maurice appears from time to time to confuse the wine drinking public, and have to say, delight those in the know within the industry. The Maurice represents the best half dozen or so barrels from the vintage concerned. It may be a single variety as with the stunning 1998 Merlot Noir, or a blend of several varieties. Currently it seems to be a Cabernet base with a little Shiraz and Cabernet Franc or Merlot sneaking through. As a winemaker you top-up and taste barrels throughout the year, and you get to know some of the better ones on an on-going and quite personal basis. If they make up a parcel of wine which holds together with continuing interest, then we will release them as Bloodwood Maurice. So in effect, I travel around my world (the cellar at 231 Griffin Road, Orange) and select the best barrels for this wine..quite like that under-sung giant of the Australian wine industry Maurice O'Shea. The story was in the Hunter and wider afield that if Maurice had been through a winery post-vintage on a buying trip, then there wasn't much of exceptional quality left in the cellar. While that's not the case at Bloodwood, the Maurice is a wine which takes Rhonda's and my fancy from a particular vintage. And it is named with pride to honour the memory of Maurice O'Shea.
Rhonda recommends roast veal stuffed with spinach and walnuts to accompany the Maurice.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grow exceptionally well in Orange. Some would say they grow too well in this soft, cool, moist and sunny climate, particularly on the richer red mountain earths on the slopes of Mt Canobolas. Get away from these fresh, fertile young volcanic soils into the ancient mean gravelly seabed through which the volcano arose millions of years ago and it is a different picture. In effect, what's known as the Orange-Shadforth association of soils, on the northern sheltered edge of the basalt plateau of the volcano provide near ideal environments for the production of high quality Cabernet, provided the vigneron isn't too greedy for yield. Grown at around 6 tonnes per hectare at Bloodwood, we see violets, black berries and subtle black currants in the fruit of properly ripened Cabernet Sauvignon. Add a dash of raspberry and some higher floral notes with the earlier ripening Cabernet Franc and you have the basis for some very fine Cabernet based wines. They are generally deep crimson in colour with the usual fine structured tannin backbone supporting very fine classic ripe red fruit aromatics.
Rhonda recommends two favourite matches with our Cabernet, French Beaufort cheese and roast lamb. The more mature the Cabernet the less you adorn your lamb. Youthful fruit can cope with richer spicing eg middle eastern spices (cumin, coriander, cinnamon, sumac ) or if you're vegetarian, similarly spiced lentils topped with a creamy fetta.
We have two small Shiraz vineyards at Bloodwood. The top vineyard at the front gate is growing in laminated siltstones while the bottom Shiraz near the exit is growing on volcanoclastics. These two vineyards produce distinct but more often than not complimentary fruit. The warmer, sheltered west facing heat trap Top Shiraz vineyard provides some very open juicy aromatic shiraz fruit at considerably lower alcohol levels than the Bottom block. The Bottom Block usually ripens a few days later than the top block, and has more high white pepper notes and some licorice in drier seasons. As a wine maker, this gives me the ability to fine, (and I mean fine) -tune our Shiraz and the flexibility to work around vintage variation in this latest of all maturing varieties at Bloodwood.
Rhonda recommends enjoying our Shiraz with fresh Parmesan (broken with a fork not cut with a knife) and a peppered steak (either European or Asian version.) I recommend a good solid chair and a silky soft pillow.
Australian Pinot Noir usually falls into three camps. There's the prissy anemic strawberry brigade with its onion skin hues and ever so delicate aromas masquerading as effete Antipodean moonshine in a bottle; then there's the much more complex, scrotal even, cherry beetroot plum crowd with its more velvety colours, more overall extract and weight on a textured forest floor toned sometimes earthy palate which delights in pH's as low as their prices are high; and then there's the dry red in a bottle with a Pinot Noir label on it. Bloodwood, just to be Bloodwood falls in between the first lot of lady-men and the blokes with 'tude in the second category..sort of aromatic cherry scrotal..if you get our drift. And with all proper Pinot Noirs, it is twice what you want to pay for it and half what it actually costs us to produce.
Rhonda recommends baked beetroot with Meredith goat's cheese creamy fetta on olive bread and of course you can't beat the standard duck breast with cherry sauce.
Schubert: There are two Chardonnay vineyards at Bloodwood. The "Schubert" vineyard is planted to an I10V5 clonal selection, is trained to a Scott-Henry split canopy, each vine occupies 4.5 square metres and the row orientation is North South. The soils are volcanoclastic loams interspersed with mass flow rounded cobbles of crystalline andesitic lava over quite a friable red clay base.
This is the newer of the two Bloodwood Chardonnay vineyards and the first ripping of the soil in preparation for winter planting began at 9am on Sunday 6th March 1994. I know this because as the ripper blade behind my trusty old Fiat tractor began breaking the first vine row as it descended with great promise into the complex and dry autumnal soils of that new vineyard, the last item on the local ABC news fairly stopped me and my tractor in our tracks. After the weekend sport results and the desultory dissertations on yet another poor prospect for rain over the upcoming winter; beyond comments on the recent the pig meat market collapse and the current and expected temperatures in Dubbo, almost as a casual afterthought it was reported that Max Schubert had died. That's all the local recognition Max got. I was planning on planting Chardonnay, but it was going to be serious, ground-breaking Chardonnay with extended new French oak maturation, no malo-lactic fermentation and plenty of stirring up of the lees during its long maturation phase. It would more than challenge the prevailing norm in Australian Chardonnay styles and no doubt have to weather the slings and arrows of contemporary industry opinion.
How appropriate is it then that the vineyard should be named Schubert, and what better name could there be for a leading and innovative style of Australian Chardonnay.
Rhonda recommends enjoying pork belly either with apple sauce or Asian style (use star anise, soy, ginger, garlic, coriander and mandarin rind.) The retained malic acid of the Schubert cuts through the fat of dishes like duck, salmon, roast pork and chicken.
Above Typical Scott-Henry trellis (used in the Schubert Vineyard) arrangement.
And here's how it looks...
Chardonnay: Each bottle labeled Bloodwood Chardonnay comes from the original Chardonnay planting in Orange which originated from an old mass selection of Montrachet vines, (P58?) , and is trained to a VSP (Vertical Shoot Position) in the traditional French style. This wine has been a favourite for many years for those who like a bit of brightness and flint in their Chardonnay styles. In many ways this Chardonnay has been a flag bearer for the rapidly developing wine industry in Orange.
Above Typical VSP trellis (Vertical Shoot Positioning) used in the Chardonnay Vineyard
Each vine occupies 2.4 square metres and the row orientation is East-West on a 15% Northerly slope. The soils derive from ancient laminated siltstones, greywakes and gravels over a weak red clay base. No wonder the "Schubert" and the Chardonnay are two different styles of Chardonnay.
This wine traditionally has a fruit driven bouquet rich in citrus, some melon/fig notes and depending on the level of oak treatment, a subtle level of French oak char. The palate is silky smooth and very well balanced, and goes on forever; well at least until the next bottle. This is an Australian Chardonnay you will want to drink more than one glass of and you will live to tell the tale.
Rhonda loves good old roast chook with the Bloodwood Chardonnay, and suggests simple or complex flavoured prawn dishes (Asian or otherwise.)
There are basically two ways of making pink these days. The first is to bleed off pale juice from your red grape crush and ferment it like you would a white wine; that is, coolish anaerobic ferment during which you watch out for the usual red wine ferment problems through to an early bottling. These wines are generally made opportunistically at vintage in an effort to improve the colour in the remaining red wine crush rather than to create a seminal rose style. Although often good quality drinks, they can often show more extraction, tannin, alcohol and residual sweetness than is necessary in what is essentially a fine, light and refreshing style of wine. The second method is to dedicate a portion of the vineyard to Rose production, pick the grapes at an appropriate ripeness for the style, probably whole bunch press to extract the desired hue, and ferment the juice carefully to preserve the life and freshness of the wine style.
At Bloodwood we aim for a fresh strawberries and cream style of wine with just a trace of residual to ensure its compatibility with a wide range of foods.
So, hide your sons and daughters, Bloodwood Big Men is back in town. The wine is normally (sic) 95% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc and we think it can hold its head up in the tradition of the best wrestling wines of the mysterious Bloodwood past.."Big Men in Tights" as this wine is affectionately known is THE wine for wrestlers; (and bikers and their grandmothers).... in fact it's for anybody who is genuinely serious about not being too serious about wine. It is the bastard bred earthy child of our colourful French Malbec Clone which occupies about 1 acre of the original Bloodwood Blend Block and just a tickle of Cabernet Franc. It's a wine which (we've been told) has been held responsible for at least two successful pregnancies and countless seductions under the mid-summer skies of Cremorne Point in Sydney, but it's greatest claim to fame is that one devotee apparently witnessed Andy Warhol jitterbugging out of his grave when he (ol' Andy) first tried it! The current version will no doubt soon be featuring discretely under the more discerning banana chairs on a beach near you....and in some really posh nosheries too! Enjoy!
Rhonda recommends what NOT to have with the Big Men and that's a big juicy steak! But check it out with a Thai beef salad, or French foods, (pate´, terrines and sausages,) Italian pasta or pizza or warm salads of duck and pomegranate or Greek lamb with fetta and olives, try Asian stir fries, even cheesy fritters in winter, dumplings, spring rolls and falafel rolls and..and...
At Bloodwood we pick our Riesling on pH. If the pH is around 3.0, then the fruit and acid balance is likely to be about right. The fruit was hand-picked and chilled to about 3 degrees C before being carefully whole-bunch pressed. The gentle, quick processing means that there is little need for sulfur prior to the juice reaching the fermentation tank. Gentle oxidation is the order of the day, and often the juice acquires an appropriate orange hue prior to an extended cold settling and debourage. However the strict use of inert gas in the headspace of each tank as a protective blanket against oxidation during the subsequent life of the wine means we preserve the natural seasonal characters of the fruit subsequent to this critical stage of the wine making process. With a normal yield of around 35 hectolitres or 6 tonnes per hectare the quality of the wine is usually high given sound fruit at harvest. Typically, it is a brilliant green gold in colour with fragrant lemon/lime infused aromas which build in the mouth to include citrus and spice in a fruit generous and mineral influenced racy palate finishing with pleasing acidity. With careful cellaring look for subtle honey and straw to develop alongside the lime, talc and citrus over the 5 to 10 years or so.
Orange is ideally suited for Riesling provided it is not grown on too rich a site and the cropping levels are limited to around 6 tonnes per hectare. This was the first Riesling style to emerge from the Orange Region and we believe it shows great promise in years when the fruit is not over ripened and the natural pH of the must, as reported above, is close to 3.0. The deep, free draining warm gravels of Bloodwood give Riesling an austerity and fruit density which remains rare in Australian styles.
Rhonda simply recommends ham and salad or fish and chips (where the Riesling acts like a squeeze of refreshing lemon juice to cut through the fat.) For more exotic tastes, try searedscallops or prawns with Vietnamese green pawpaw salad. Our current favourite is Queensland chilli mud crab. Yum.