What next for the 2015 Shiraz?

The 2015 Shiraz is currently being prepped for bottling and will be ready for your glass….. mid-2019. Ok, ok, I know it’s a way off yet, but this little beauty needs a lot of love and care before it’s ready to drink. Let’s a have a closer look at what is happening behind the scenes.

Rob Moody, Somerled winemaker, pictured in the barrel hallSo, a couple of weeks ago you would have read that the 2015 Shiraz has been in barrel for well over two and a half years. It has now been racked out of those barrels for the last time and is sitting in tank waiting for the next steps in the process.

Step 1: Fining

Firstly, a specific quantity of fining agent will be added to the tank to bind all the unwanted compounds in the wine together in clumps so they sink to the bottom of the tank.

The purpose of adding a fining agent to wine is to soften or reduce its astringency and/or bitterness; remove proteins capable of haze formation; or reduce colour by the adsorption and precipitation of polymeric phenols and tannins (in white wines). The fining agent reacts with wine components either chemically or physically, to form a new complex that can separate from the wine (Australian Wine Research Institute)

Commonly-used fining agents include…

  • Gelatine
  • Isinglass (derived from fish!)
  • Egg albumen
  • Casein
  • Skim Milk
  • Bentonite
  • Carbon
  • Polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP)

Rob Moody in the lab with the Somerled 2015 ShirazThis is a photo of a very serious looking Rob in the winery last week trying to decide which fining agent to use on the Shiraz. The quantity and type of agent used can cause subtle changes in the structure and taste of a wine.  Although Rob adores the 15 Shiraz as is, he did wonder if it needed a little softening on the tannins. So, in the lab, he compared samples using 50 parts per million (ppm) of gelatin, 100 ppm gelatin and one using PVPP against the standard to come up with the right one for the job. The sample using 100 ppm gelatin was the winner – the tannins were softened nicely and the middle palate became a lot rounder and softer, without damaging any other characters of the wine.

Step 2: Cold stabilisation

Have you ever drunk a wine and found what looks like shards of glass in the bottom of the bottle or, even worse, your glass? Well, don’t freak out… it’s not glass, but completely harmless and natural tartrate crystals which can form when a wine hasn’t been properly temperature stabilised. They are scientifically known as potassium bitartrate, but if you’re a whizz in the kitchen you might also know them as cream of tartar!

Tartrates occur in wines when potassium and tartaric acid, both naturally occurring products of grapes, bind together to form a crystal. They are a normal bi-product of a wine as it ages, but cold temperatures (usually below around 4 degrees Celsius) can make them naturally combine with potassium to form a crystal.

The way to avoid this happening is to force this process in the winery before bottling. The tank is chilled down so far that ice forms on the outside and the tartrates form and sink to the bottom.

Step 3: Filtration

So, now that we have all these clumps (!) and crystals in the wine, what to do with them?

The final step in the process is to pass the wine through a filter on its way to the bottling line. This will remove all those unwanted particles and leave us with a beautifully clean wine, ready to be enjoyed by you…… in a year or so. But, hey! We have plenty of 2013 (and the 2014 still to come) to keep us going until then.

It should also be pointed out that the removal of these tiny fractions adds to the remarkable cellaring potential of Rob’s wines. Last weekend, I was lucky enough to sip on a 1998 Shiraz that Rob made and it definitely did NOT taste like a 20 year old wine! So, not only will we be enjoying Rob’s 2013 Shiraz at the cellar bar this weekend but also for years to come (if we can hang onto it for that long!).

Looking for something to do this weekend? If you’re in Adelaide and would like to see what the 2015 will taste like this time next year, we have a few bottles of 2014 that we’ll open for tasting at the Cellar Bar in Handorf. Mention this post for your chance to try it before anyone else does!

Stop the presses!

(did you see what I did there?!)

Last week, I explained what was happening with the Sparkling vintages in the pipeline. If you missed it, catch up here.

Since then, Rob has filled us in on some sneaky experimenting he has been doing behind our backs.

Back in 2012 he kept two barrels of 2012 Sparkling aside with the view to adding them to the 2013 – he had the idea that adding slightly aged wine to the sparkling would increase it’s body and complexity. In the end, he only used one of those barrels.

Anyway, the point is, it’s been racked off into bottles and shaken down (to get the lees into the neck ready for disgorging) and now Rob is testing out ideas for it. Watch this space…!

Our Sparkling is the best!

Rob accepts the trophy for Best Sparkling in Show 2017 for Somerled Sparkling Pinot Noir
Rob accepts the trophy for Best Sparkling in Show 2017

…but, don’t just take our word for it – our customers think so… oh, and the judging committee of the Adelaide Hills Wine show agree as well! They awarded our 2014 Méthode Traditionelle Pinot Noir the trophy for the best Sparkling in Show of 2017.

We’re currently pouring our way through the very last batch of 2014 at the cellar bar, but don’t panic… Rob is working on more as we speak! It’s the first fruit of vintage to come off the vine and head into the winery, but there are also other vintages in the pipeline. Let’s have a look at where they’re all at. First though, let’s get a few definitions out of the way…

Méthode Traditionelle: one of the ways to produce sparkling which creates the bubbles in the wine through a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Before it becomes Sparkling, the wine is filtered into the bottle… the same bottle that is presented for sale. A second round of yeast is added, along with sugar to start the second fermentation. The bottle is then crown sealed to trap the carbon dioxide (ie. your bubbles) produced. This is the process used for the production of Champagne.

Lees: deposits of dead or residual yeasts from the secondary fermentation

Disgorge: Removing the sediment after secondary fermentation

2015: This vintage is sitting on yeast lees, with the first batch to be disgorged very soon. This is the next batch heading for your glass once the 2014 has sold out, which will only be a few months away – it is being consumed enthusiastically since the win!

2016:  Also on lees, developing those lovely flavours we all love in Rob’s sparkling. It will stay this way until we’ve sold out of the 2015 vintage which is at least another 12 months away. It’s also important to note that Rob disgorges in batches (depends  on volume, but between 2-4 batches). This means that some of the bottles from each vintage will spend longer on lees than others, allowing more time to develop those flavours.

2017: This one has only recently been bottled and is currently going through secondary fermentation in the bottle to create those tiny delicate bubbles we all love so much. Each individual bottle has quite a lot of yeast in it and the fermentation process creates over 5 bars of pressure (that’s a lot!). It will stay this way for a least a couple of years. The next time you enjoy a glass of our Sparkling, make sure you appreciate those bubbles… it’s taken a lot of work to get them there!

2018: Rob visited the vineyard yesterday and has the following to report…

Vines looking good even after the heat of the past week. They look fresh and the leaves are glossy. The nighttime temperatures have been really low since the two or three very hot days over the weekend, which helps. The vines on the block we pick the grapes for the sparkling are “dry grown” and get no irrigation at all (unless they absolutely need it – the grower has a bore).

“Dry grown” grapes are usually smaller, denser and more flavoursome. The practice requires rootstock that will seek the moisture deep in the soil (not just on the surface). Vines must be spaced sufficiently to get all the moisture they can (to decrease competition for water). And the correct soil mix is crucial to prevent moisture from escaping. Grapevines are pretty hardy, but this method requires a lot of intense hands-on work.

Berries are modest in size and are still hard as nails. Almost no sign of veraison (other than what is pictured here), so it looks like it will be another week or so away. The grapes won’t be ripe enough to pick for Sparkling until around 3 weeks after that, so in early March (a little later than average) we will be plucking this bunch from the vine! Literally… the grapes for our Sparkling are hand picked, which means Rob can be fussy about exactly what goes into the press. There is no sign of disease but he has noticed some shrivelled berries (perhaps just physical damage) which can be avoided during the hand-picking process.

Want more?

We have so many more fascinating things to tell you about Sparkling. Keep tuning in for the answers to these questions and many more…

  • What’s all the kerfuffle about using the word Champagne?
  • What is involved in making Sparkling using the traditional method and what other methods can be used?
  • How do you make a Sparkling white wine out of a red grape variety?

What would you like to know? Post your questions below and we’ll answer them in future posts.

Missed last weeks post on what else is happening in the winery? Catch up here.




From the winery: barrel update

This week we head into the winery to Robin Moody, Somerled wine maker in the barrel hallhave a look at what’s happening behind the scenes with some of Rob’s creations which he is lovingly nurturing…

  • 2017 Fumé and Chardonnay:  These wines are both looking sensational and will be heading to the bottling line very soon. And a point of interest for the Chardy die-hards among us… a couple of the barrels are already particularly caramelly… yum!
  • 2017 Pinot Noir: Still in barrel and is elegant, with a beautiful structure. It looks light, but the flavours are delicious! It is due for a rack & return and will also be bottled before vintage begins.

Rack and Return is a term which describes the process of pumping the wine out of barrel and then returning it once the barrels have been cleaned and any remaining yeast lees (dead or residual yeast cells) have been removed. This helps to get some air into the wine, keeping it nice and fresh. It also helps to soften the tannins and allows blending of the different barrels for consistency in the bottle.

  • 2015 Shiraz: This particular vintage has now been in barrel for well over two and a half years. It was recently transferred to tank and is now ready for bottling. It looks lovely – beautiful typically Somerled chocolately flavours! It will then spend between one and two years in bottle where it should develop those estery Penfolds-esque characters. Rob likes to move away from his Shiraz being a simple fruit & oak wine to it having much more complexity and interest, which include these interesting aromas. This is also one of the reasons he leaves it barrel for so long, so it has developed some of these already.

So what does “estery” mean exactly? It’s a difficult term to describe and even Rob struggles to define it. Basically it is a compound called ethyl acetate which is produced from a reaction between ethanol and acetic acid. Wines with too much acetic acid are described as having Volatile Acidity (or VA) which, at high levels, is a fault in the wine. However, Penfolds are known for having a small amount of VA in their reds and for Rob this characteristic is very desirable AT LOW LEVELS… just enough so it combines with the other characters of the wine to sort of lift it and add complexity.

So, I guess you could liken it to walking a tight rope… Rob has the skill and finesse to tread this fine line, to ensure the delicate balance is maintained.

  • 2016 Shiraz: Was recently racked and returned but kept in two separate batches due to some slight differences in flavours. If they remain significantly different, and one stands out from the other, this will inform Rob’s decision to blend further down the track. Or not!
  • 2017 Shiraz: Even at this very early stage, the 2017 vintage is looking great with nice intense fruit flavours. This one looks to be yet another fantastic vintage out of McLaren Vale. Watch this space!

Is your favourite Somerled wine Rob’s deliciously rich and smooth Shiraz? Which is your favourite vintage? Let us know in the comments below.


And don’t forget to tune in next week, when we’ll have a chat about our “Trophy-winning” Sparkling Pinot Noir!

Missed last week’s post? Catch up here.

Where to start…?

On a day like today, what better place than with Rob’s go to thirst-quencher… Sauvignon Blanc.

We source the grapes for this classic Adelaide Hills variety from a vineyard in Charleston where the season is shaping up to be a good one. Some early hail damaged the vines a little, which warranted a strict disease management program. Unfortunately, the wet and very warm weather resulted in some downy mildew, but the damage was insignificant.

Downy mildew loves wet and warm conditions… for those of you interested, the rule of thumb for optimal disease conditions is a minimum of 10 mL rain with the temperature not falling below 10 degrees over a 24 hour period.

The grapes are currently at early veraison (see picture) and still have a lot of growing up to do in fact each berry will double in size between now and vintage.Sauvignon Blanc graoes

Veraison is defined as the stage at which three simultaneous but separate processes begin.

1. Each berry soften as the cells within the grapes begin to produce more juice and the skin becomes thinner.

2. Sugar starts to accumulate and acidity of the grape starts dropping away.

3. Colour starts to change – in Sauvignon Blanc this is a change from emerald green towards being translucent.

But, what about this week’s hideous heat, I hear you ask?

Our growers are well prepared for short burst of hot weather and have been carefully metering out irrigation to counteract the stress and high water use of the vibes at this time.

Also, the relatively “cool” nights of the Adelaide Hills allow the vines to recover without losing their precious leaves.

In other words… don’t panic, they’ll be fine!


Want to know more? Ask us a question in the comments below.

Welcome to the Somerled Wine Education Blog…

… a place for you to come to gain insight into the work involved in bringing you Somerled Wines. We want to share with you some of the reasons why the Somerled wine in your glass tastes as good as it does.

We will take you through the season and update you weekly on what is happening in the vineyard, the winery and our gorgeous Cellar Bar in Hahndorf.

My name is Maree and I will be your tour guide through this process. This is my 5th year behind the bar at Somerled… I have listened to (and tried to answer) your questions about our wines while you enjoy a glass of something. But now it’s time to get the full story straight from the horse’s mouth.

Join me as I learn from Rob and other industry experts and take you on a journey of passion, precision, experience and good old hard work.