Wild White

The excitement of vintage seemed like only yesterday. But this week, the first of our 2018 wines was bottled! Here are the first boxes of our Somerled 2018 Sauvignon Blanc hot off the bottling line!

The wine finished cold stability early last week and was filtered.  Rob did a final tasting at Lodestone during last week and decided it didn’t need any further additions or movement.  At that point, the tank was relocated into a temperature-controlled room to help bring it up to a good bottling temperature (around 15C).  Monday it was loaded onto the truck and off it went to Boutique Bottlers at Stockwell in the Barossa.  Rob and his brother-in-law Wal (you can just call him Uncle Wal!) were there to see it go into bottle yesterday.

In Rob’s words, “It’s a lovely pale, bright wine with a really lifted floral/perfumed nose and a delicate dry soft clean crisp palate.  Perfect aperitif!!” I think that means he’s happy!


Want to know a bit more about this popular, but sometimes unappreciated variety?

Sauvignon Blanc originated in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions in France. The name literally translates to “Wild White”. Sauvignon Blanc is also famous for parenting the noble grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, also from Bordeaux.

Sauvignon Blanc is a very flexible variety – it can be grown in a number of different climates, resulting in a range of styles. In Bordeaux’s maritime climate, Sauvignon Blanc produces wines with ripe full fruit flavour. While in the continental climate of the Loire Valley in western France, make wines of purity, minerality and length. In the Sauternes region of Bordeaux in south-west France, when blended with Semillon and aided by the Botrytis fungus, some of the world’s greatest sweet “dessert” style wines are produced.

The Marlborough region in New Zealand is probably one of the most well-known producers of Sauvignon Blanc these days, but we Aussies make some pretty good ones too (and not just of the Somerled variety!).

Aussie Sauvvie

As I’ve mentioned, Sauvignon Blanc differs greatly depending on the climate and soil in which the grapes are grown. Australian Sauvignon Blanc runs the gamut of flavour from herbal, grassy, sour citrus and gooseberry, to passionfruit and tropical fruit characters. Structurally these wines can be light in body and crisp or medium-bodied and rich. Some, like our Somerled Fume Blanc, are oaked to add a further dimension of complexity. Sauvignon Blanc is Australia’s top selling white wine in dollar terms.

Which region in Australia produces the best Sauvignon Blanc?

Well, of course, I’m going to say the Adelaide Hills! But, the truth is, they are all so different it would be unfair to compare them. Let’s take a closer look at each regions and the styles of Sauvignon Blanc they produce…

South Australia

While we share the same “cool climate” categorisation, the Adelaide Hills is slightly warmer than Marlborough. It is for this reason that we produce crisp, fresh Sauvignon Blanc with tropical flavours rather than the trademark grassy notes of our NZ counterparts. Coonawarra also produces some lovely cool climate Sauvignon Blancs

South Australia also produce some richer, riper examples in McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek. These aren’t as popular here because we’re not used to this rich style in Australia.

Western Australia

Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc has ripe, zippy and grassy flavours that have attractive, tropical musky-asparagus aromas. Pemberton is a small Western Australian region that produces distinct Sauvignon Blanc styles with tropical fruit aromas and flavours.


Victoria’s cool regions produce some fresh and vibrant Sauvignon Blancs, with those from the Yarra being typically elegant and restrained. King Valley and Goulburn Valley Sauvignon Blanc is often grassy and also shows classic cool-climate freshness and vibrancy.


The cool Tasmanian climate is ideal for Sauvignon Blanc, that typically has high levels of crisp acidity, which gives the wine great freshness.

Orange, NSW

A relative newcomer – Orange’s cool climate and high altitude have proved to be ideal conditions for creating Sauvignon Blanc with fresh, herbaceous characters.

How does Rob make his Sauvignon Blanc so “mouth-watering”?

The secret to Rob’s amazing Sauvignon Blanc is that he likes to pick the fruit nice and early. That way, the soft acid or what he likes to call “mouth-watering” acid, is still present. The longer the fruit is left on the vine, the more it ripens – replacing the acid with sugar. If Rob picked it later, then he would need to add acid in the winery to create the same effect.

Rob also like to choose fruit from different parts of the vineyard to get a nice range of flavours. From ripe mango in the full sun areas to zingy passionfruit in the cooler, shadier morning sun rows.

The overall effect is a soft, mouth-watering, elegant Sauvignon Blanc!


If you’re a Jockey Club member, watch out for a bottle of this new release in an upcoming pack… it won’t be too far away. Once it has been released to the club you will be able to taste it at the cellar bar – why not pop in for a side by side comparison with the 2017 version?! (and a platter and another glass or two…!)

Thank you! … you know who you are.

A huge thank you to everyone who contributed to last week’s post with your great questions and feedback! Make sure you keep an eye on the blog for a post dedicated to your topic of interest.

Temporary interruption to our regular broadcast

So, here’s the thing… I’ve had one of THOSE weeks. Luckily, I’ve had a good supply of Somerled wine to get me through. But, I am asking for your forgiveness and input and hoping you’ll do the hard work for me this time around…

I love writing this blog and hopefully, I am helping you to understand a little more about the winemaking process and what makes Somerled wines, in particular, so special.

But, am I?

Who are YOU?

Is anyone out there?

I would love to hear from you!

So, I am hoping that I can leave this week’s post up to you. Comment below and tell me…

  1. What is one thing you have learnt since reading the blog? Or which has been your favourite post so far?

    Is it the updates from the winery you like the most? What about information on your favourite varieties? The practical stuff? Or do you like it when I get all technical on you?!

  2. What is something you would like to learn that I haven’t covered yet?

    You name it, I’ll investigate it for you!

Don’t worry, I’ve still got plenty of ideas and topics to bring you! And next week, I will be back with another informative post straight from The Horse’s Mouth!

The ‘S’ word…

Spanish Sherry

Ok, I am going to say it once, and then you have to pretend you never heard it.


… or Apera, as we must call it in Australia these days. Thanks to a trade agreement between Europe and Australia back in 2010, local fortified winemakers were banned from using the ‘S’ word.


Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes grown near the town of Jerez, in Andalusia, Spain. What you may not know though is the name ‘Sherry’ is actually an anglicization of ‘Jerez’. So, we can’t call it that for the same reason we can’t call Australian sparkling wine ‘Champagne’.

Wine Australia maintains the Register of Geographical Indications and Other Terms to ensure correct use of Geographical Indications (GIs) and Traditional Expressions (TEs) on both wine labels and associated advertising material in Australia. There are over a thousand protected European names.

Anything which is protected can not appear in the presentation and description of a wine that isn’t connected to it in any context. There is a clause in the Act which also prohibits the use of terms like ‘style’, ‘method’ or ‘imitation’.

For further details and a full list visit the Wine Australia website here.

A 2010 trade agreement, you say? Why am I only hearing about this now?

That’s a good question! My guess is that it is simply not very popular. When we think about Sh… sorry, apera, we often remember it as something our grandparents drank (ie. not cool!).

I also think that people just don’t understand it. We most often think of it as being sweet, which is certainly true for some. However, there is a whole world of styles out there… dry, mid-dry semi-sweet, etc. etc., but we will come back to this.

How is apera made?

After primary fermentation of the base wine, apera is fortified (simply meaning to “add spirits to wine”). Because the fortification takes place after fermentation, most sherries are initially dry, with any sweetness being added later.

What makes apera so unique is the use of flor yeast. After standard white winemaking procedures, the wines are transferred into barrels, which are only partly filled. The wine in each barrel is then seeded with a special yeast (flor yeast) and stored for several years. Because the barrels are only partly filled, the wine’s upper surface is exposed to air – providing ideal growing conditions for the flor yeast. As the yeast grows it forms a film across the surface.

The solera system

Another unique feature in the production of apera is the use of a solera system. Barrels of wine are arranged in a pyramid-like stack with the youngest wine in the top layer and the oldest wine in the bottom layer. At bottling time, the wine to be bottled is removed from barrels in the bottom layer of the solera, taking only a small portion. Then each cask is refreshed from the layer above. This results in a progressive mixing of young wine with older wine, a process known as ‘refreshing the wine’.


Apera comes in a variety of styles… most of which we also can’t mention for locally made versions! For your information though, there are a couple of useful tables to describe the varieties of Spanish sherries below…

sherry styles

types of sherry







To try some of these varieties side by side (and to understand how they can be paired with food), Seppeltsfield in the Barossa offers a great tasting.

If you’re wondering what the dry end of the apera spectrum tastes like (just between us, it’s in the palo cortado style – but don’t tell anyone I said that), why not pop in to see us and we can pour you a little of ours – it’s a great aperitif!

You didn’t know Rob made a Somerled apera?!

Well, you do now! …and it’s for sale through the cellar bar.

Tell us a bit about your apera Rob…

“The apera that we have in a barrel, and a few bottles, was made in the SA Riverland from the 2009 vintage.  It was made from palomino grapes, the grape variety that most Spanish sherries are made from.  In my early days of winemaking, there were many growers across the country who grew palomino and they usually grew pedro ximenez as well.  In those days fortified wines were much more popular than now, so over the years some really nice palomino vineyards have been removed as no one wanted the fruit. 

“Palomino produces a rather neutral dry white wine, nowhere near as aromatic or flavoursome as riesling or sauvignon blanc for example.  This is one of the reasons that palomino dry white makes such a good base for the most delicate, pale dry apera wines.  But it also makes a great base for the more robust, deeper coloured aperas.

How did you make it…

“So our apera started off as a delicate dry white, very pale, and was fortified with very neutral grape spirit to an alcohol content of 15%.  It was clarified and pumped into barrels that had been used for wine storage for some years previously.  The barrels weren’t fully topped, as is usual with table wines, but were filled to about 75-80% full, leaving quite a headspace above the wine.  On to the surface of the wine, a specially selected yeast, called a flor yeast, was gently sprayed.  This yeast is one that will grow on the surface of the wine, unlike the usual wine yeast which grows all through the juice/wine.  The wine is quite dry (ie contains no, or almost no sugar), so there’s none of the usual bubbly fermentation, but instead the flor yeast spreads across the wine’s surface.  It produces a compound called acetaldehyde, and this is what gives the apera its typical aroma and flavour.  It helps to protect the wine against oxidation, and that’s why the apera stays so pale while the flor yeast continues to grow.

“We were fortunate enough to be able to purchase a couple of barrels of the young apera in 2011, and some of you may remember seeing the apera in a glass-headed barrel that we kept in the cellar door for some years.  That barrel is still our main apera barrel, but is “kept out the back”..!

And what about that “work” trip to Spain?

“As the apera developed, it became more and more difficult to maintain the flor yeast film on the surface, so the colour of the wine started to deepen.  It so happened that Heather and I spent a month in Spain about then, and much of that time was spent in the south of Spain, particularly in Jerez which is often said to be the capital of the Spanish sherry industry.  We visited some wonderful bodegas and even though I started off with a high degree of scepticism, I/we were won over by the range and variety and absolute quality of the sherries.  One wine style that we loved enormously was the very old Palo Cortados which were a lovely golden tawny colour, dry as a chip, and with wonderfully complex aromas and flavours.  A similar style in Australia would be an aged apera that we used to call Amontillado, but the Australian version of an Amontillado always had a fair bit of residual sugar.

sherry in barrel“So, I could immediately see a great future for our Somerled apera as a wine modelled on the Spanish Palo Cortado style – and that’s the way it’s going.  It’s now over 9 years old, and has been in barrel for nearly all that time.  The flor yeast film has long disappeared, but the flor influence is still there, just as it is in the old Spanish Palo Cortados.  It has deepened further in colour, so that it has a lovely golden tint with a touch of the tawny, and the aromas and flavours are incredibly lifted. 

“The Somerled apera has an alcohol of just on 15%, so it’s not much more than a big red table wine, and this helps the wine to remain soft. It doesn’t have the bite of a lot of other aperas which are closer to 18%”.

Has this post piqued your interest in apera?

Why not pop in this weekend to try some for yourself!

Not in Adelaide? That’s ok… we can ship a bottle (or two!) to you anywhere in Australia!



Paella and TempranilloAfter the success of our latest Harvest Day last weekend I thought it was about time we took a closer look at our lesser-known variety.

The hungry masses queued up to taste the delicious pairing of Francisco’s Paella with our Tempranillo (see last week’s post to find out why they go together so well).

What is Tempranillo and how do I pronounce it?

Tempranillo is the dominant variety found in a wine region of northern Spain called Rioja. Given its Spanish origins, where a double “l” is pronounced as a “y” sound, the correct pronunciation is Tem-pra-nee-yo (but we’ll forgive you if you order a tem-pra-nill-o!). The name comes from the Spanish word, temprana, which means early, referring to the fact that it’s an early-ripening red variety.

In the vineyard

The vines are particularly suited to relatively high altitudes, but it also can tolerate a much warmer climate. Tempranillo vines can grow quite vigorously. Therefore, the vineyard manager needs to carefully manage the crop to avoid over-cropping and excessive vegetative growth.

tempranillo leafThe highly serrated nature of its leaves makes it one of the most recognisable varieties in the vineyard. It is one of the few varieties where the leaves turn bright red in autumn. It’s one of the most beautiful sights!

Tempranillo in Australia

Tempranillo has only been planted here since around 1994 with two of the first producers being Brown Brothers in North East Victoria and Yalumba in the Barossa. Since then, Tempranillo has been planted in many regions across the country, all with relative success. It was first planted in the Adelaide Hills around 12 years ago.

Interesting facts

Tempranillo is…

  • OLD. The general theory is that Tempranillo was introduced to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) by the Phoenicians over 3,000 years ago.
  • one of the top varieties blended into port wine from Portugal.
  • is the fourth-most planted variety in the world.
  • is considered one of the nine red noble grapes.

The noble grapes are 18 varieties of red and white wine grapes that define the complete range of wine flavours. They are most recognizable for the top-quality wine they produce and are said to retain their character no matter where they are planted.

The 9 red noble grapes from lightest to darkest are:

Pinot Noir, Grenache, Merlot, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Malbec.

What does it taste like?

Tempranillo grapes produce dark wines with aromatic fruity characters. The tannins are soft and sweet and become very smooth in the barrel. They are typically medium bodied with a weight similar to Cabernet Sauvignon or Sangiovese.

Tempranillo is characterised by flavours of blackberry, black cherry, raspberry, vanilla and clove.

But more importantly…

What does Rob’s tempranillo taste like?

We are currently pouring our 2014 vintage tempranillo at the cellar bar, but with only a handful of boxes left the switch to 2015 is imminent!

Here’s what Rob had to say about the 2014…

Now that the weather is cooling down, it’s a great time to get stuck into a Tempranillo or two.  We’ve been tasting a few Spanish Riojas (which are predominantly produced from tempranillo) and they make an interesting comparison with ours.  There is a definite similarity of style between our Adelaide Hills wine and the Spanish.  They both have great complexity of aroma and flavour, and they both have a very soft tannin structure that creates a silky feel to the palate.  They are not really big, rich wines, but are more elegant without sacrificing flavour and “warmth”.

I might say that the Tempranillo has changed just a bit from when we first released it in September, 2016.  It’s continued to mature and develop more complexity, and it is definitely softening all the time.  It suggests to me that it still has some softening and maturing ahead of it, and I think it will be at its absolute best in another couple of years, so definitely a wine to have in the cellar.

It’s worth tucking a bottle or two, or maybe a box, away for the future. I’m certainly going to!

You heard it… if you haven’t already got some of this tucked away, now is the time! Get in quick before it’s all gone.

Email us your order today –

So how does the 2015 compare? This is what Rob had to say…

Colour:  Both are deep in colour, with the 15 being a little denser and slightly more youthful than the 14.  The 14 is starting to get a few aged tints about it, and that will keep happening slowly…

Nose:  They both started out with prominent blackberry notes and the 15 still is, to me, really nice young fruit, whereas the 14 has moved further along, showing some lovely savoury refined characters, and not so much fruit.  The 14 is seeming quite European to me and really benefiting from all the racking and returning when in barrel.  The 15 will go down similar lines with the fruit merging in with the secondary aromas as time goes on.

Palate:  Both are medium to full bodied and both have a nice mouth-filling texture. The 15 appears a little softer than the 14 and is already rounder and a touch richer in flavour.  The 14 has a bit of an edge in complexity on the palate and is definitely showing more maturity.  I love the way it’s developing.  The 15 is quite generous in flavour, maybe has more obvious “warmth”, and has great length, possibly because it’s McLaren Vale whereas the 14 is Adelaide Hills.  They’ll both develop really well in the cellar for a number of years…they both have a nice supporting tannin structure that’s necessary for bottle ageing.

Do you enjoy a glass of Somerled (or dare I say it… someone else’s) Tempranillo? Tell us what you think in the comments.

What’s for dinner tonight?

Hands up if you have been asked by Lucy as she is pouring you a glass of something at the bar, “what’s for dinner tonight” (usually to decide if she should invite herself over or not!)?

If there is one thing the Moody family enjoys almost as much as good wine, it’s good food. So, you can understand how important it is for them to get the pairing of the two spot on.

From the fiercely debated recipe which Heather and Lucy match to our Jockey Club wines every two months to Heather’s favourite food/wine combination of Chicken, Chips and Chardonnay – it’s serious business.

(…between you and me though, I’m not entirely convinced by the family’s favourite MacDonald’s hamburger/Pinot combination!)

But other than the old red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat rule…

What are the basics of pairing food with wine?

Regional Pairing

Regional matches provide a template for us to understand more about what’s going on structurally with wine & food pairings. They’re not always perfect, but they’re often a great place to start.

Think Sangiovese (Italy’s most commonly planted grape) with a tomato-based pasta or (as per the picture above) Sauvignon Blanc and goat’s cheese.


As a rule, the wine should be more acidic than the food. Otherwise, it will taste flat. A good example to help visualise this is a glass of oaked chardonnay with a vinaigrette salad. Considering the acid balance is one of the most important considerations in choosing a wine.

High acid wine will also add a range of interesting flavours to a fat heavy dish. There is nothing like a glass of sparkling to cut the fat… like some delicious triple cream brie perhaps?


The wine should be sweeter than the food it is paired with. Sweet loves salty. Think salted caramel (yum!). And when I say sweet, I don’t necessarily just mean sweet dessert wines (although Tawny Port and pretzels are amazing!), just think about the fruit sweetness of the wine you are choosing with your savoury meal.


And by bitter, I mean tannins. Tannic wines (like a nice big red) should be balanced with fat. Here, you need to imagine a nice big juicy steak and a glass of Somerled Shiraz, or Tempranillo and anything cheesy (pizza is my personal favourite!).

Bitter, however, does not go well with more bitter. Now, prepare yourselves. I am about to say something somewhat controversial… this is the primary reason why red wine does not normally pair well with chocolate. I know! I’m probably going to get shot down for that statement, but you can’t argue with science (actually, feel free to in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that one).

Other important tips

  • The wines should have the same flavour intensity of the food – this is why red wine normally pairs well with red meat and white wines pairs well with light-flavoured meats like fish and chicken.
  • It’s always best to match your wine to the sauce, not the meat
  • More often than not, white, sparkling and rose wines will create contrasting pairings. That is flavours with few shared compounds like coconut and lime.
  • More often than not, red wines will create congruent pairings. These being pairings with many shared compounds like beef and mushroom.


Let’s look at a real-life example…

Sunday is our next Harvest Lunch at Somerled Cellar Bar. Back by popular demand is Francisco’s delicious Paella paired with a glass of Somerled Tempranillo

During my research for this post, I came across this amazing Food and Wine pairing method poster and decided to give it a try.

The idea is to find the “shared pairing” amongst all the flavours in your meal. I looked up cured meat (for the chorizo), smoked for the preparation, alliums for the vegetable (ie. onion), exotic aromatic spices and rice and came up with… medium red wine! Or a Tempranillo… perfect!

If you’d like to try it for yourself, join us on Sunday from 12.30pm. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here.


This post comes to you with a lot of help from our friends at If you’re enjoying this blog, you should definitely check them out too.

Quiet excitement for our 2018 wines…

If you’re lucky enough to have met Rob, you’ll know that he is understated and unlikely to exaggerate his impressions. He’ll happily enough acknowledge that his wines are (more than) “drinkable”, but you won’t find him banging on about it!

That’s why his latest update from the winery has got me very excited! Read between the lines with me and you’ll discover we’re going to have an outstanding line-up of wines from vintage 2018.

Let’s have a look at Rob’s report from the winery today in his own words, with a translation here and there from me (which may or may not reflect the stated views of the winemaker!)…

Report on visit to Lodestone Winery – 24 May, 2018

Looked at all the wines and happy with all of them.

(See what I mean by understated?! Happy = ecstatic)

Sauvignon Blanc

Still cloudy in the tank, but the colour is great (awesome) – pale, with some of those nice green tints that reflect the early picking and really nice (top quality) fruit.

The nose is very delicate – slightly herbaceous rather the floral.  The palate is crisp. Too crisp for drinking at this stage, but we’ll be chilling the wine to ensure cold stability next week, and that will ease back the acid level.

Cold stabilisation

In some bottles of wine you may see a small deposit of crystals, particularly if the bottle has been stored in the refrigerator. These deposits are tartrate crystals – a natural part of the wine; they precipitate out under cold conditions. They are not harmful, however most consumers prefer their wine to be perfectly clear (particularly white wine).

To ensure this winemakers will, after fermentation, chill the wine and hold it at about minus 3 degrees Celsius to precipitate all or most of the unstable tartrate crystals before the wine is bottled.

Flavours are delicate too, but with a nice lingering finish. (The 2018 version of this Somerled favourite is going to be delicious, as usual!)

Fumé Blanc


Fume Blanc and sauvignon blanc samples
Notice the difference in colour between the Fume Blanc (on the left) and the Sauvignon Blanc (on the right)

Already darker in colour than the “standard” Sauvignon Blanc. This is due to its time in the barrel, with colour from the oak showing up.  Seeing as it has had only a short time in barrel, it’s impressive (high praise indeed!) to see that extra colour and even more so to see the enriching of the aromas and flavours.  The malolactic fermentation has influenced the nose and palate in a very nice way so that the wine is already starting to show complexity and interest (damn, this wine is going to be great! …or something like that).  It’s being stirred on a fortnightly basis.  This stirs up the lees from the bottom of the barrel, helping to develop a fuller texture and flavour.  It helps the bacteria to keep going too, as the malolactic fermentation hasn’t finished yet.



This is showing colour development too! (exclamation marks?! He must really be excited!) It’s even a bit deeper than the Fumé, and with really nice tints.  The nose is quite full, and the ongoing malolactic fermentation is adding such a nice (delightful) extra lift to the nose – almost a maturity to it.

The palate has quite a dense flavour and it really lingers.  There are some nice oak aromas and flavours, and it’s almost savoury rather than fruity.  It’s going really well (OMG… Heather is going to love this!).

Pinot Rosé

Pale and very dry as all good rosés should be.  It’s not showing a great deal in the way of malolactic fermentation (MLF) influence – aromas and flavours are still “pinot fruit” without strong complexing effect from the MLF.  But that will come.  We’ll have an update on the progress of the MLF tomorrow.  It’s still very crisp, so further MLF will be ideal to soften it up!!

Pinot Dry Red

This is looking very nice indeed.  It’s all the way through MLF and sulphur dioxide has been added, as previously reported.  It’s still quite cloudy so it will be pumped out of barrel into a tank and settled for a bit, then racked back into washed out barrels.  The barrels will, apart from one new one, all be well matured, as we don’t want too much oak to show through. The nose is showing that lovely young pinot perfume that will get more prominent as it sits in barrel. I think that as the wine becomes clearer and less cloudy, those aromas will float up more easily.  The palate is surprisingly rich for a pinot and has almost a sweetness about it, even though the residual sugar in the wine is negligible.  It could be our best pinot dry red yet, as I think I’ve already said!! (more exclamation marks! Boy, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen rob THIS excited!)


Back by popular demand!

Paella paired with a glass of Tempranillo = match made in heaven!

Serving lunch at our next Harvest day on Sunday, June 3 and this time we’re supporting Catherine House – Support for Women Experiencing Homelessness and we’d love you to bring any of the following items:

  • liquid body-wash
  • facial cleanser
  • facial moisturiser
  • hair colour
  • sunscreen
  • deodorant spray.

We’ll then deliver our stash to Catherine House who will distribute them to women in need – these simple items will make a big difference.

Lunch $25 – Click here to book
Have a look at the Catherine House wish list here.

What is Rob’s favourite variety?

Somerled Chardonnay

In his top three anyway…

I’m hearing a lot of “shiraz” being muttered around the room. If that was your guess, then ok, technically you’d be right… but wrong in the context of this post! Let me rephrase the question slightly… what is Rob’s favourite WHITE variety?

As a matter of fact, Rob considers Chardonnay to be one of the all-time classic varieties. For him, no other variety carries flavour and texture quite as well as Chardonnay. And he loves to work with these two elements through the use of oak and malolactic fermentation.

Last week saw a pre-release of our first ever Reserve Chardonnay to our Jockey Club members. Given it’s also Heather’s favourite variety, we launched it on Mother’s Day served with her favourite accompaniment – chicken, chips and coleslaw! And I must say… it went down a treat! According to our tasters, it was “rich and lush, but still elegant” and most importantly, “yummy”.

How does Rob do it?

How does he get that balance just right between the complex richness and elegance?

Back in Rob’s early winemaking days at Penfolds, Chardonnay was usually picked quite late when the fruit was very ripe. They also experimented heavily with oak in those days. What resulted was a rich, oaky wine. When people talk about not liking Chardonnay (and it’s a very common complaint), these old-style Chardonnays are usually all they know of the variety.

What Rob prefers to do now is to pick the fruit nice and early and not go too heavy on the oak. This produces a complex and rich wine with butterscotch and caramel notes, but with a lovely fresh acid running through it form the early picked fruit. Divine! And yes, we have converted some of those Chardonnay-haters!

The Reserve Chardonnay does have more oak – Rob left it in some newer barrels for longer than he normally does. It’s certainly a bigger, richer wine that our regular Chardonnay, but with that lovely early picked fruit it still retains that lovely elegance.

Give us a call, send us an email or pop in to get your bottle of this sensational wine ($75 for club members; $90 if you’re not a Jockey Club member) – I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

What about unoaked chardonnay?

Rob doesn’t have an issue with unwooded Chardonnay – he’s just never tasted one he likes!

Want to challenge Rob? If you know of a good unwooded chardonnay, let us know in the comments below and we’ll track it down for Rob to try. We’ll get back to you with his thoughts!

What else can you tell me about Chardonnay?

Chardonnay first came to Australia in the 1920s. It is planted in virtually every region and makes a wide variety of wine styles from light-bodied, crisp and unoaked through to full-bodied, complex barrel matured versions.

It can be grown successfully in climates ranging from cool to warm. Cool climate versions tend to be lighter in body with higher acidity and more subtle flavours. Warm climate versions tend to be more full-bodied with richer, riper fruit and bolder flavours.

For example…

Adelaide Hills

  • The undulating and sometimes very steep aspects combined with average altitudes over 400 metres means that Adelaide Hills is the coolest region in South Australia
  • This region is ideally suited to the production of complex Chardonnay
  • The wines are typically textured with peach and citrus flavours

Margaret River

  • Margaret River has established itself as one of Australia’s premier Chardonnay producing regions
  • The warm climate is tempered by the effects of the Indian and Southern Oceans
  • The style is typically concentrated, rich and complex with typical lime-like acidity

Mornington Peninsula

  • The cooling effects of the ocean are felt throughout the Mornington Peninsula
  • The cool climate is ideal for the production of pure-fruited, restrained Chardonnay
  • Creates medium-weight wines with delicate flavours of melon, white peach and citrus

Yarra Valley

  • The Yarra Valley has a diverse array of microclimates and vineyard aspects which impacts Chardonnay’s style
  • Elevated vineyards sites allow for a restrained and subtle style
  • Diverse characteristics but typically medium-bodied, textured wines with signature flavours of white peach

(reference: Wine Australia)

Where does your second favourite Chardonnay come from? (because of course your favourite is ours!)

Does Heather drink anything other than Chardonnay?

Rarely! Although, I have seen sparkling in her glass on a special occasion! In true Heather style though, you will always hear her saying “I’ll just have a half” when placing her order at the bar. I will neither confirm nor deny if she returns for another “half” (or two)!

In truth, Heather will drink Chardonnay and only one other Somerled wine in preference over anything else. There is another variety she favours, but until the winemaker bends under the pressure of Heather’s regular requests to make another, there are only two Somerled wines you will regularly find in her glass. Can you guess what that second Somerled wine is? What about the variety she has been pestering Rob to make another of? We have a bottle of Heather’s favourite up for grabs for anyone who can guess both of these wines correctly!


But what about the vineyard…?

vines in autumnRemember that place we got all the grapes from?

While all the action has been in the winery, it’s easy to forget that the vineyard is still there doing its thing. Once the grapes are harvested, work doesn’t automatically stop for the viticulturalist (fancy name for someone who grows vines).

A lot of work goes into ensuring the vines are ready to produce Somerled quality fruit for Vintage 2019.  Kim Anderson has kindly taken us through what he’s been up to on his property in Charleston. Let’s take a closer look…


There has been a good amount of rain over the last few weeks.

Adequate water keeps the vine functioning so that it can store the carbohydrates in the trunk and roots which it will need come Spring.


One hundred and twenty tonnes of composted organic matter with humates, lime and gypsum went under the vines last week – about 3 kg for each one and a little extra on the less vigorous spots. Kim is trying to improve the soil. That way, the vine roots are able to take up nutrients and water better.

Lime (calcium carbonate) helps to balance the pH (acidity) of the soil so that the nutrients can become more available to the roots.

Gypsum (calcium magnesium sulphate) improves soil structure by replacing sodium in the soil solution and reduces the breakdown of soil particles.

Humates are organic acids which stimulate the healthy microbes in the soil. These microbes protect the roots and assist with nutrient uptake.

Soil quality

Kim has always left the grass to grow under the vines until budburst (when the buds first form on the vine late in the year) to improve organic matter in the soil. While levels have improved a lot, he still had some unevenness in vigour in some sections.

Soil conditions can change considerably over quite short distances in the vineyard. Variations between high and low elevations are the most common. Under these circumstances, it is common to give nature a hand with mulching or composting.


Kim will prune all of the Pinot Noir to canes over the next few months. Last winter he changed half of the block from spur-pruned arms to canes.

cane versus spur pruning in the vineyardThe difference between cane and spur pruning is best explained by this diagram.

A lot of work goes into changing the pruning system from spur to cane. So why would you bother?

With cane pruning, the viticulturalist is able to control the number shoots on the vine. This is important in getting the balance between yield and competition for nutrients and water at critical growth stages spot on. This is a very expensive and time-consuming process though.

Spur pruning on the other hand is cheaper and simpler. It can also be done mechanically. The downside, though, is that more shoot thinning may be needed later on if the vines grow too vigorously (and vigour isn’t always a good thing when it comes to wine quality).

Despite the added expense and effort, the vines will grow with better balance and there won’t be so many unfruitful shoots to remove after budburst.

Disease management

New vines will be trained up in Kim’s Chardonnay block this season – just four rows for now. He is pulling out a few rows each year and replanting the old vines with new ones. As the Chardonnay block is over 20 years old, there are a few vines with Eutypa. Some can be cut back hard – past the point of disease, but it is better to replant afresh. That way he is certain that there are no diseased vines left undetected.

Eutypa is a trunk disease that causes the eventual decline and death of the vine.

Special thanks to Kim Anderson for his contribution to this post.

Reserve Chardonnay launch

Speaking of Chardonnay, Rob will be releasing his first Reserve Chardonnay this weekend! Hopefully, you have your tickets as it has SOLD OUT!

If not, stay tuned for more details on our first ever virtual tasting – order your Reserve Chardonnay when we release it by email next week and Rob will personally introduce you to this special wine.

Keep your eye out for details coming your way soon!


Where all the fun happens…

This week we take a look at what happens inside the winery laboratory!

OK, “fun” might be a bit of a stretch, but for a science geek like me, it is!

Over the course of the last few months, as I have led you through some of the key steps of making wine, I have alluded to this placed called the “laboratory”. If you’re imagining a corner of the winery where geeky, glasses-and-white-lab-coat-wearing people spend their days playing with beakers and test tubes, well….. actually, you’d be pretty much spot on. However, if science (or learning about it) is your thing, it is one of the most exciting and fascinating places in the winery.

It is also one of the most important. The winemaker relies on data from “the lab” (that’s what all the cool kids call it!) to make key decisions during the winemaking process. What many people don’t understand is that winemaking is highly scientific. That’s where Rob, and his background as a (maths and) science teacher, comes in very handy and probably why he is so good at it. He understands the importance of getting things right.

So what happens in this place of wonder and awe?

There are a number of tests that the laboratory can perform during the lifespan of a wine… from pre-harvest of the grapes to bottling of the finished wine.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the key tests…

Measurement of residual sugar

By now, you should be getting pretty familiar with this. Previously we’ve talked about measuring Baumé in grape juice to determine when the grapes are ready to pick. We’ve also looked at how the same measurement is used to determine whether the ferment is progressing and when it has finished. Considering this measurement is taken a few times before harvesting the grapes and then usually twice a day during fermentation, it’s easy to see that this is one of the most basic but important tools a winemaker has.

Without going into too much detail there are a number of instruments which can be used to take this measurement. If you are lucky enough to work in a laboratory which has a digital refractometer, then life is easy. Smaller wineries though rely on a piece of equipment called a hydrometer.

A hydrometer is usually made of glass, and consists of a cylindrical stem and a bulb weighted with mercury or lead to make it float upright. The juice or wine is poured into a graduated cylinder, and the hydrometer is gently lowered into the liquid until it floats freely. Hydrometers have a scale inside the stem, so that the person using it can read the Baume measurement.

Measurement of pH

If you can think back to your high school science days, you may remember a term called pH. It’s a tricky concept to grasp, but basically, it is a measure of acid in a liquid. Acids exist in different forms, and one of these forms is free hydrogen ions. pH measures the concentration of hydrogen ions, which are important in that they influence chemical reactions in the juice or wine. Concentrations of these ions in solutions are very low, so chemists invented a scale for expressing acid condition in all sorts of liquids (not just wine). This scale ranges from 0 – 14. Pure water is neutral at pH 7, lemon juice sits around pH 2 and grape juice and wine usually sits in the range of pH 3 – 4.

The thing to remember about pH in wine is that the higher the pH, the greater chance of oxidation. During the winemaking process, some of these free ions are used up through chemical reaction so the pH increases. Acid additions are often made with the aim of achieving an acid level which is in balance with the sugar, alcohol and fruit in any particular wine.

It’s a very delicate process, one which needs constant monitoring to ensure the levels are optimum. In the laboratory, pH is measured using a pH meter.



Testing sulphur dioxide levels

As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, the production and addition of sulphur dioxide is an important element in the process of making wine. It is also important to make sure the level of sulphur in the wine is just enough to help prevent oxidation, and at the same time keeping the level as low as possible.

This is a pretty involved test. I have included the below video for those of you who are interested. But be warned… it is of the educational, not entertaining variety. I won’t be offended if you don’t press play!

I could go on…

… and on, but I won’t (for now)! I’ll stop before I lose you all, but I may come back to the lab every now and then to chat about other important tests (unless I get a resounding “no! please don’t!” from you all in the comments section).

If you are particularly interested in this side of wine-making, please let me know via the comments. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

Wooden you like to know more about barrels?

Herbs growing in a wine barrelI know. I’m so sorry… I promise that will be the last pun!

So, other than making a great place to grow your herbs when they’re cut in half, what are barrels for? And why are they important in the winemaking process?

Why oak?

Most red wines and some white wines are stored in wooden barrels made from oak. Why oak in particular? Well, there are a few reasons why it has become the wood of choice:

  • the cellular structure and density of it prevents leakage
  • it bends easily without cracking
  • the physical dimensions of an oak barrel do not change considerably at different levels of humidity
  • oak contains tannins that protect it against insects
  • oak contains flavour compounds, which are complimentary to wines.

Although more than 600 species of oak can be found globally, only a handful are suitable for making wine barrels. The location of the trees is also important and they are usually sourced from areas in which they grow the tallest and straightest.

How are barrels made?

The making of a wine barrel is a tricky process, so I’ll leave it to a real-life cooper tell you how it’s done…


What type of oak has Rob been using recently?

When it comes to Somerled wines, Rob prefers a specific brand of French oak barrels called Chassin – sourced from a small family-owned cooperage in Burgundy. They are his particular favourite for the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He really likes the soft, fairly gentle spiciness of the new barrels. It doesn’t tend to dominate the flavour of the wine. That is, as long as he uses them in conjunction with older, more mature barrels.

What do we mean by that? Well, obviously a barrel can be used more than once. And the older it gets the less intense the oak flavours. So, for Rob, it’s important not to have the oak overpower the delicate fruit flavours of his wine. Therefore, he always stores his wine in a mixture of old and new barrels. Once the wine is fully matured and ready for bottling, some of the barrels will have a more intense oak flavour than others. When it’s all mixed together before bottling, this will even out to exactly the balance Rob is looking for.

How long can a barrel be used for before it needs to be turned into a pot for my herbs?

Barrels do have a certain life expectancy when it comes to their use in changing the colour, flavour, tannin profile and texture of wine. However, barrels are also useful simply as maturation vessels, due to the slow update of oxygen through the oak into the wine. The oldest barrels Rob uses were produced in 2009… at this stage, those barrels are no longer adding to the flavour profile of the wine.

Do barrels come in different sizes?

They sure do! The most commons sizes used today are a 300 litre barrel (also known as a Hogshead) and a 225 litre barrel (also known as a Barrique). Rob prefers to use hogsheads as it is generally easier to control the amount of oak and the rate of development. The smaller the barrel, the larger the number of barrels needed to store the wine and the greater the surface area to wine ratio… therefore the oakier (technical term!) the wine.

Back in the 70’s, Rob remembers using more of the 500 litre barrels (or puncheons) than anything else. The maturation was much slower in this size, but they were also very difficult to handle. These days, special racks designed to carried by forklift are specifically designed to hold hogsheads and barriques.


(Reference: Stern, Eric.2012. The Complexities of Barrels. Wine Business Monthly.
May 2012: 28-39.)

Any news from the winery?

Things have slowed down considerably in the winery as the wines do their thing.

Somerled Sauvignon BlancThe Sauvignon Blanc is going through the fining process as we speak. It’s still pretty cloudy and gritty (as you can see in the photo), but the bentonite Rob is using with help to settle out the solids and prepare the wine for filtering and bottling.

Everything else is ticking along as it should!