Spring is sprung!


Tomorrow is the first day of spring (insert “Where has this year gone?” or similar comment here)! So, what better time to have a look at what is happening in the vineyard.

Pinot Noir

Over at his Charleston vineyard, Kim Anderson is currently restructuring the Pinot Noir. Although it is more expensive way to prune, he is converting it from spur-pruned to cane-pruned.

Cast your mind back to our post about pruning to understand the differences between the two.

Why would he do that?

cane versus spur pruning in the vineyard

There are a couple of good reasons to do this…

  • The shoots burst more evenly and have a predominance of fruitful buds (not so many blind or fruitless shoots).
  • It creates a more open canopy with the shoots more evenly spaced and less likelihood of fruit occurring in clumps. This is important because fruit which is close together rub against each other and spread disease.
  • If the old arms are removed each year, then there will be less pressure from scale insects and eutypa dieback (a fungal disease).

It often becomes a necessary job anyway when spur positions get damaged and then leave large gaps along the thick horizontal branches(cordon arm) – as you can see in this photo.

This vine is half converted – it is still spur-pruned on the left side of the “V” (or crown – which is much more pronounced on the vines behind).

Kim cuts the old cordon wires where he can get at them, then cuts through the cordon arms of the vine leaving a cane on each half of the crown. The right half shows a single cane left to wind onto the new wire when it comes. The old wire is often stuck in the crown which means that he must pull the wire through the twisted arms of the vine with pliers (those red things that are grabbing onto the wire!).

As you can guess cane pruning and restructuring are both very time-consuming and expensive to perform but the hope is that it will result in superior wine as a result.

Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc

Both these varieties have been cane-pruned already and are waiting for bud burst.

Bud burst refers to the period in early spring during which grapevines, which have been dormant through the winter, first begin to produce new shoots. If you would like to learn more about bud burst dormancy, check out this article – it’s a fascinating topic.

Bud burst may be a bit earlier than usual this year due to the warm days we’ve had over the past few weeks – although a lot of mornings have been below zero.


So, other than that, there is nothing really to do in the vineyard while the vines are dormant, right?


It is surprising just how much work goes into making sure the vines are in good health before vintage begins again.

Kim has been super busy spraying the broadleaved weeds to ensure the only thing left in the vineyard is nice grass. He has also begun under vine spraying and slashing. Together, this helps to reduce the risk of frost damage.

Short grass provides some heat whereas long grass reduces heat uptake from the sun and causes the frost layer to ride higher as it flows down the slope.

The next job on his to-do list is to clean the frost sprinklers which only have around 6,000 heads! He’ll then get to work on fixing any posts which have been broken by machinery during the year.

And the list goes on…


The birth of new things…

With spring symbolising themes of rebirth and renewal, what better time for us to introduce our beautifully updated website!

Watch out for an email tomorrow directing you to our fresh new look site where you can read, learn and shop all things Somerled.

In the meantime, here is a sneak peak!

I have also incorporated this blog into our new site. So, this address (www.somerledwinesseries.com) will no longer be updated. If you have bookmarked this site, please change it to www.somerled.com.au (remember if you head there now, it will still be our old site… the new one will be there tomorrow!) to keep up to date with our latest posts.


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.

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.

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!

Our young wines are growing up…

While the hustle and bustle of vintage is finally settling down, there is still plenty of important working going on in the winery. Rob is busy preparing his ‘babies’ for the next stage of their development (and no, he doesn’t have a favourite!).

Let’s take a look a closer look…

Sauvignon Blanc (in tank)

This wine has now been confirmed in the lab as “sugar dry”. That means that fermentation is complete.  Therefore, it is now ready to “rack” (which will happen over the coming week) and a small amount of protective sulphur dioxide will be added.

Whoa… wait up! That’s a lot of technical terms to throw at you in one paragraph. Let’s just take a minute to look at these in more detail.

Sugar Dry:  This just means that all of the fermentable sugars (being glucose and fructose) are below 1 g/L (or 0.1%). There comes a point in the fermentation that measuring the Baumé is no longer sensitive enough to determine the point when the fermentation has stopped, and the wine is considered dry. That is when the laboratory needs to use much more specific tests such as enzymatic assays or High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC for short, because let’s face it, that’s a mouthful!).

Racking: racking a white wine simply means to move it from the tank it was fermented in (with all the lees and sediment at the bottom of it) to a fresh, clean vessel. Particularly with a wine like Sauvignon Blanc, you don’t want to leave it on this sediment for too long after the completion of fermentation as this starts to affect the taste of the finished wine.

Sulphur Dioxide (or SO2): Let’s come back to this.

Chardonnay (in barrel)

This wine is also dry, so Rob is happy to add the malolactic bacteria now. He’ll then give it a good stir and top up the barrels to ensure there is very little space at the very top. The more space, the more oxygen in the barrel which has the potential to cause oxidation.

If you missed the question on last week’s blog post about why Rob prefers to wait until the end of fermentation to add the MLF bacteria, then here is the answer…

“There’s a feeling that adding MLF bugs while the yeast fermentation is still finishing (and residual sugar still in the wine), may lead to acetic acid (VA) production. Since there’s no great rush to get MLF started, we’d prefer not to take that chance!”

Fumé Blanc (in barrel)

This is also dry and will now be treated in the same way as the Chardonnay

Pinot Rosé (in tank)

Again, this one has also finished fermentation and is considered dry. It’s also ready for some MLF bacteria to be added. Seeing this wine doesn’t spend any time in barrel, and the malolactic fermentation process will happen in a tank, Rob will need to transfer this to a tank that is just big enough for the volume of wine and then top it up to make sure the amount of space in the tank is at a minimum… just like the barrels for the Chardonnay and Fume.

Pinot Dry Red (in barrel)

The Pinot has been dry for a while now. At least one of the barrels has already finished malolactic fermentation. Rob will give it a couple more days before he gets the lab to take a representative sample of all of the individual barrels to check if all of the barrels have finished. If they have finished, then he’ll rack them and add a small amount of sulphur dioxide and top them up.

Racking a wine in barrel is essentially the same process as for wines in tank. The wine is siphoned off into a tank, the barrels are then cleaned out with a high pressure hose to remove all the sediment and residue and the wine is then returned to the barrels.

At this stage, the wines are really quite fragile. That’s why it is super important to keep oxygen away from the wines by ensuring the containers are absolutely full. This means periodically checking all the barrels and topping them up as necessary.

So, what’s the story with sulphur dioxide?

Without opening an enormous can of worms, let’s briefly have a chat about the role of SO2 in wine production.

Sulphur dioxide has been used in winemaking for many years. There is talk of the Egyptians and Romans using it, but there hasn’t been any conclusive proof of that.

Sulphur dioxide is a unique compound which inhibits microbial activity and aids in preventing oxidation and therefore is commonly used for maintaining the wine in prime condition.

It can be added to the bins in which the grapes are harvested and transported to the winery, to the juice prior to fermentation and, most commonly, to the wine after fermentation and during storage.

Sulphur dioxide is added in very small amounts and is considered harmless to most consumers. A small proportion of people can be sensitive to sulphur dioxide. In these cases though, it is important to remember that sulphur dioxide is actually naturally produced by yeast during the fermentation process. Therefore, some sulphur dioxide will be present in all wines even if it has not been added.

Do you have any questions or comments about adding sulphur to wine? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


A real life look…

Tasting event with Rob Moody at Somerled Cellar Bar

Last weekend Rob shared tank and barrel samples of our 2018 wines at an exclusive tasting event at the cellar bar. A fun and educational session ensued!

These young unfinished wines were presented along-side their counterparts currently being poured at the cellar bar. This gave us the opportunity to compare what they smell and taste like at this very early stage to when they are ready to be released (and more importantly, drunk!).

“But, why would I want to taste an unfinished wine?” I hear you ask?

Well, if you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing there is a fair chance you enjoy learning more about wine and the wine-making process. On the surface, wine-making may look as simple as getting some grape juice, adding some yeast and letting it do its thing. And that would probably work… if you’re not interested in making a good wine!

The key to making an exceptional wine is in the skill of the winemaker. Experts like Rob are able to look at these young wines and not only predict, but manage how they will develop. Even as far back as when the grapes are on the vine, Rob tastes the grapes and will assess the primary fruit characters of the juice. Now that fermentation has begun (and in some cases, finished), Rob is now looking at the developed fruit characters and figuring out how to enhance the ones he wants to show in the finished product.

It’s a delicate process… one which would be beyond many of us (or we’d all be excellent winemakers like Rob!), but it is fun to see if you can pick up some of those flavors that Rob so expertly identifies.

Primary fruit flavours and aromas come from the type of grape and/or the environment in which it grows. They are responsible for the distinctive aroma and flavour sensations of wines made from those grapes. Each variety of grape has its own set of varietal characters and its own pattern in which these change during ripening. This is referred to as the primary fruit spectrum. For example, Sauvignon Blanc can be described as herbaceous or grassy in the early stages of ripening, whereas later in the ripening stage the aromas and flavours more often resemble tropical fruit. This spectrum is specific to Sauvignon Blanc.

Developed fruit characters (or secondary flavours and aromas) are derived via the fermentation process. This process interacts with the primary fruit characters to produce more developed flavours and aromas such as: yeast, bread, creamy, caramel, nougat, truffle (to name just a few).

There are also tertiary characters which come from the aging process (in barrel and bottle). They can include: vanilla, coconut, dried fruit, coffee and chocolate (yum!).

So, what did they taste like?

Sauvignon BlancSauvignon Blanc (ex-stainless steel tank): The aroma was at the tropical fruits end of the spectrum (think rockmelon and passionfruit). That’s because although the Adelaide Hills is classified as cool climate, Kim’s vineyard has an east facing aspect. The fruit takes on these attractive tropical flavours – rather than gooseberry, herbaceous notes. The young wine was still fizzy (see photo) as the ferment wasn’t complete at that stage, but not far off. This will be replaced with a crispness in the finished wine. As you can see, it was cloudy. Careful racking, fining and filtering will take care of that.

Fumé Blanc (ex-French oak barrels): While similar to the Sauvignon Blanc, it was already showing some textural difference due to the influence of the oak, There was also just a touch of oak aroma showing up already, even though it was barely a week in barrel then.

ChardonnayChardonnay (ex-French oak barrels):  Aromas of citrus (like grapefruit). It already exhibits its hallmark mouthfeel (think of that lovely creamy feeling you get with a good glass of chardy!) Its richness may be partly due to the bit of sugar which is still fermenting out. It’s certainly heading down the right track though.

 Rose Pinot NoirRosé (ex-stainless steel tank): Looked like pink grapefruit juice, but had those lovely strawberry flavours we all love in this wine.  It looked sweet compared with the 2017, but it will be quite dry by the time it gets to bottle.


Pinot Noir

Pinot (ex-French Oak barrels): The colour of this wine in progress was intense (see picture). Nice deep dark crimson and a full body. Rob is very excited about this one!  He particularly likes the clean perfumed and spiced aromas and already quite rich flavours. It’s big compared with the 2016 and 2017, but is already soft.

NOTE: the French oak barrels above have already been used for 2016, then 2017 wines. It will still impart some gentle spicy aromas and flavours without being too overpowering.

Missed out on the tasting last weekend?

Make sure you join our mailing list (if you’re not already on it) and check your emails for upcoming events… there will be plenty more throughout the year.

And I know I keep banging on about it, but there ARE some surprises in store for our interstate followers. Watch this space!

A quick update from the winery this week…

A very quiet week in the winery as we wait for the ferments to finish. They are all going well. The Sauvignon Blanc is pretty well there, so that will be racked in the coming week. The Chardonnay and Fumé very close. No malolactic bacteria has been added to these yet… not until the primary fermentation is completely finished.

Rob is really impressed with each of the wines confirming his thoughts that this is another EXCELLENT vintage!



… but wait, there’s more!

Last week, we talked about primary fermentation and the role of yeast in turning that deliciously sweet grape juice into wine. But that’s not the end of the story.

Rob is also a big fan of a secondary fermentation called Malolactic fermentation (or MLF). While this bacterial fermentation occurs naturally for most red wines, it is also a handy tool in the production of some white wines.

Let’s find out why…

What is MLF?

Malolactic fermentation is a secondary bacterial fermentation which often occurs naturally after the completion of primary fermentation. It can also be induced by inoculation with a selected bacterial strain. Oenococcus oeni, a member of the lactic acid bacteria (LAB) family, and is the main bacterium responsible for conducting MLF. This strain is chosen due to its ability to survive the harsh conditions of wine (high alcohol, low pH and low nutrients) and its production of desirable wine sensory attributes.
MLF is crucial to microbiologically stabilise most red wines. MLF removes the malic acid in wine that can be a carbon source for yeast and bacterial growth, leading to spoilage, spritz and unwanted flavours.

(Source: AWRI)

MLF can also be conducted in some wines to influence wine style, which is what Rob like to do with our Fumé Blanc, Chardonnay and Rosé.

In addition to the important conversion of the harsh malic acid to softer lactic acid, MLF is associated with a broad range of other metabolic processes that impact on a wine’s sensory profile. Wine aroma and flavour are affected by volatile compounds, while non-volatile compounds influence the palate or mouth-feel of wine. Sensory terms such as ‘buttery’, ‘vanilla-like’, ‘nutty’, ‘spicy’, ‘fruity’, ‘vegetative’, ‘toasty’, ‘fuller’ and ‘rounded’ are used to describe MLF influences on wine.

You’ll definitely hear a few of these terms used when describing the Fumé, Chardy and Rosé!

(Source: AWRI)

Update from the winery

Chardonnay and the Fumé Blanc are both now in barrel, while they finish the last of the primary fermentation. The Fume is very nearly complete (with the Baumé now below zero), while the Chardonnay is still at around 2.2 Baumé at last check (on Wednesday).

Pinot Noir Rosé is at 1.6 Baumé.  This fermentation has been nice and steady, which is exactly what a wine-maker hopes for. Rob expects that will continue right the way through to the completion.

Why does the ferment need to progress steadily?

If the fermentation happens too quickly, then the temperature of the ferment increases. High temeperatures can encourage oxidation, microbiological spoilage and instability. It can also deplete the desirable aroma and flavour compounds, as well as alcohol. Above 38 degrees celcius, the yeast becomes “sluggish” and the fermentation may become “stuck” with residual sugar.

With a slow fermentation, there is a risk that the fermentation process will stop altogether, with the colder temperatures killing the yeast. The only option then is to reinoculate the ferment with more yeast to start the process again. This also interferes with the aroma and flavour of the wine. Also, the risk of oxidation is very high.

(Source: Making Good Wine, B. Rankine)

Sauvignon Blanc in tank is slowing up a bit. At last check, the Baumé was at 1.1. It is still moving slowly though, so Rob’s not concerned that it will stop. He may need to give it a bit of a stir though, to get the yeast up off the bottom of the tank and doing what they’re supposed to do!

Pinot Noir dry red in barrel has finished fermentation. It is lovely and dry!

So, what happens next…?

All these wines (except for the Sauvignon Blanc in tank) will be inoculated with the malolactic bacteria to start the secondary fermentation. This won’t happen though until all the sugar in each of the wines has been fermented.  This is because there is always a risk of acetic acid production when bacteria are added in the presence of sugar.  Once the bacteria are added, it takes a while for them to get going. So watch this space!


“But I want to see (and taste) all of this in real life!”

Well, you can!

There are still a couple of seats left at our next tasting event on Sunday (April 8, 11am – 1.30pm)!

Meet Somerled’s Newest Wines: Rob Moody and the entertaining Hugh Armstrong pair up again, bringing you so much knowledge and behind the scenes secrets when it comes to winemaking. They’ll pour these in-process Somerled wines to hold up against our current vintages and – as always – will pour a special wine for you at the end with commentary from Rob! All presented with a sumptuous platter luncheon including Manchego, terrine, pate, crusty French loaves, locally churned butter and all manner of sides. $65pp includes luncheon, book here.

A complex task for a simple organism

… and no! I am NOT talking about Rob!

It’s time for the yeast to do some of the hard work. While we’re all busy satisfying our sweet tooth over this Easter long weekend, the yeast cells are doing the same!

The role of yeast in fermentation…

Primary fermentation is the conversion of the sugar in the grape juice to alcohol and carbon dioxide by specifically selected yeast. The strain of yeast selected by the winemaker based on both on its ability to conduct the fermentation efficiently and also on the sensory features they add to the wine. For example, some yeasts produce compounds which add to the fruity and estery characters of the wine, while others are more neutral, allowing greater expression of varietal characters.

At the peak of fermentation there will be around 100 million yeast cells in one ml of the fermenting liquid!

(Source: Australian Wine – from the vine to the glass, P. Iland & P. Gago)

Temperature is also an important aspect of the fermentation process. The optimum temperature depends on wine variety, style, speed of fermentation, type of yeast, etc. etc. Let’s look at this in more detail in a future blog post.

The strain Rob chooses is nice and clean, reliably ferments all the sugar and almost always creates those attractive estery aromas.

Sauvignon and Fumé Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc fermentOur Sauvignon Blanc is about 70% through fermentation and is fabulously aromatic.

The Fumé Blanc portion has been split off with some nice “fluffy” (a technical term!)  lees and put to barrel. The lees addition will set it apart from the other Sauvignon Blanc by giving it extra weight and body.

How does Rob know that a fermentation is “70% of the way through”?

You may remember when we talked about Baumé in this post, I mentioned there were two applications for this measurement. Given that Baumé is the measure of the amount of sugar in the juice, then we can use it here to determine how much of that sugar still remains. The idea is that when fermentation in “complete” then there is 0 sugar (or close to) left in the resulting liquid (or wine).


Chardonnay fermentIt is still very early days for the Chardonnay. You may remember that the Chardonnay started out cloudy like this – and yet last week if appeared crystal clear and golden! The grape solids had settled to the bottom, rendering it lovely and bright. Now it’s cloudy again – not because of grape solids this time, but because it is now chock full of yeast cells.

Fermentation has been progressing slowly, but it has lovely clean full aromas.

Rob is very happy with it so far (as is Heather!).

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir Rosé is about halfway through fermentation and is ticking along nicely. The colour is lovely and pale (just the way Rob likes it). Although at this early stage, the aromas are quite subdued, they will start to lift closer to the end of fermentation.

Pinot Noir fermentPinot Noir fermentPinot Noir for our dry red was “pressed” on Monday and the free-run wine and pressings have been blended together. It was then transferred into barrel where the last bit of sugar is now fermenting away quietly. Rob thinks it looks terrific!

Free-run is the liquid part of the ferment. The remaining skins and berries are then pressed to release any additional juice. Sometimes these two components are kept separate (depending on the type of wine you’re aiming to produce) as the pressing liquid has more tannin and astringency.

Rob always puts the pressings back with the free run, as he likes the weight and “mouthfeel” it provides and the tannins help protect the wine’s colour. Sometimes winemakers keep the free run and the pressings separate, especially if they’re trying to make a simple wine that’s going to be released for early consumption.

Want to see it in real life?

Purchase tickets now to our April event: 

Meet Somerled’s Newest Wines: Rob Moody and the entertaining Hugh Armstrong pair up again, bringing you so much knowledge and behind the scenes secrets when it comes to winemaking. They’ll pour these in-process Somerled wines to hold up against our current vintages and – as always – will pour a special wine for you at the end with commentary from Rob! All presented with a sumptuous platter luncheon including Manchego, terrine, pate, crusty French loaves, locally churned butter and all manner of sides. $65pp includes luncheon, book here.

April 8, 11:30-1pm, seated event.

It’s All So Quiet …

Everybody’s been holding onto the edge of their seats all vintage.

Everybody that is, besides Rob! It’s his 50th vintage – nothing to see here!

2am starts, 2am finishes, midnight call-outs, checking Baumes around the clock, no sparkling, extra-stunning rose, sauvignon blanc in, chardonnay in, pinot noir in, destemming, crushing, pressing and now …

Shh ..!  A week of quiet.

What have our ‘wines’ (juices) been up to in their tanks?

Well, you may remember that this was what our sauvignon blanc looked like one week ago:

And this is what it looks like now!

Whoah how did that happen?

Why, it did it all by itself!

We chilled the sauvignon blanc juice right down (you can see how cold it is in the photograph) to ensure that it doesn’t start fermenting on its own and mess up the balance of flavours. Since then, gravity has allowed the solid material to sink to the bottom of the tank which is fantastic.

Solids in the juice give to the wine a coarseness and bitterness that needless to say Rob does not want, so for delicate wines like the sauvignon blanc, it’s critical to get them out of the way as soon as possible. We can then easily rack the wine (carefully pump it off the solids and into the fermenter). Next we warm up the clear juice ready to add the yeast for primary fermentation.

Indeed we’re adding the yeast to this clean, clear juice right now! In 10-12 days it will be our new, fresh, Somerled 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, complete with the beautiful aromas and green tints that Rob saw the very minute the fruit was pressed!

Want to see it in real life?

Purchase tickets now to our April event: 

Meet Somerled’s Newest Wines: Rob Moody and the entertaining Hugh Armstrong pair up again, bringing you so much knowledge and behind the scenes secrets when it comes to winemaking. They’ll pour these in-process Somerled wines to hold up against our current vintages and – as always – will pour a special wine for you at the end with commentary from Rob! All presented with a sumptuous platter luncheon including Manchego, terrine, pate, crusty French loaves, locally churned butter and all manner of sides. $65pp includes luncheon, book here.

April 8, 11:30-1pm, seated event.

What are our other newbies up to?

Chardonnay 2018 is on its way! Our chardonnays always differ so much in colour from the sauvignon blancs. Take a look! This shot was taken by Rob (holding the glass) a matter of hours ago. Instead of bright green tints, we have mellow golden hues. You can also see how the solids have sunk to the bottom in the chardonnay as well – great work, chardonnay juice!

As soon as Rob started describing its “lovely rich, buttery juice” he had everyone ready to pour a glass then and there! Why wait for it to become wine? (In related news, Heather has reported that she is thus far satisfied with Rob’s work on her favourite variety).

If you were to taste this juice right now, it’d be quite a bit sweeter than the sauvignon blanc because the chardonnay is picked at a higher sugar level (Baume) to create a slightly richer wine. Yeast is being added to this clean juice as we speak and it should come in around 12.7% alc/vol – as opposed to around 11.5% for the sauvignon blanc.

Pinot Heaven

And how about this pinot noir – do you recognise it? And the masterful hand that’s filling the glass? This is Rob just last night, after lifting the cap on the pinot noir 2018 fermenter. Here is what a 3-day old pinot noir looks like:

It’s not exactly comparable in texture to our fermenting white wines is it? A tad ‘chunkier’ perhaps?

We start fermenting the reds on their skins so that the juice can extract the required colour, flavour and tannin from them. The carbon dioxide produced by the fermentation has lifted the skins to the surface – it’s maybe 150mm thick. The juice underneath will probably be removed Monday, as we’ll have extracted all the colour and flavour we want, and it will have had its fill of nice tannin by then. It is at this stage that many may keep the juice with the skins longer, but we prefer to keep our pinot noir distinctly delicate.

We’re all pretty smug about the wines this vintage (what is it about pride coming before a fall? Should we settle down?).

But we always get excited about creating a whole new family of wines each year for you to eventually place on your dinner table, share with those closest to you (only those who deserve Somerled) and to warm your soul.

Thanks for being nice to me while Maree’s away … cheers for now! Lucy

The vintage 2018 story continues…

So, last week I suggested that Rob’s most hectic day of vintage was behind him. I’m not going to say that I jinxed him, but perhaps that prediction was a little premature!

Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard at Summertown in the Adelaide Hills
A beautiful Adelaide Hills morning in the Sauvignon Blanc just before picking

Another big day for Rob…

Our sauvignon blanc grapes were hand-picked last Friday and Rob was very happy with the fruit. Although it was a very warm day, after a few hours in the cold room, they had cooled down and were loaded into the press at about 5.45am Saturday morning – of course, Rob was at the winery to oversee this. Who needs sleep?!

Why do the grapes need to be cool before they go into the press? The fermentation needs to be slow. So, if the grapes start out warm then the ferment goes too quickly, and it won’t develop the flavours Rob is looking for.

Sauvignon Blanc juice from the press The press


Freshly pressed sauvignon blanc juiceThe Baumé was lowish (11.2) and that is exactly how Rob wants it. The juice is perfect with lovely aromas and flavours, and such an attractive green tint. All up 3000 litres of juice came out of the grapes. This will be used for both the 2018 Somerled Sauvignon Blanc and the Fumé Blanc (in quantities yet to be determined by the winemaker!).

Since then the juice has been chilling while all of the solids from the grapes are settling to the bottom. This leaves 90% of the juice nice and clear. It will then be “racked” off the lees, yeast will be added, and it will be wine in a couple of weeks. Easy right??!!

The last of the Adelaide Hills fruit makes it to the winery…

Chardonnay grapes

This week sees the last of our fruit from the Adelaide Hills being harvested.  This is happening as I type at Kim Anderson’s vineyard in Charleston. It started this morning (Friday) at around 2:00am.  Chardonnay is first (see picture), followed by Pinot Noir for dry red.

The chardonnay was at 12.2 Baumé a couple of days ago. It should be ideal by the time it gets to the winery (Rob likes it to be around 12.5). The pinot was tested at 13.8 Baumé. This is as high as Rob would like to see it go… the colour and flavour look terrific.

Both these varieties are machine harvested. While machines are definitely faster, they aren’t as gentle as human hands, so some of the berries may be inadvertently crushed during the picking process. This is something you want to avoid with sparkling and sauvignon blanc. However, with Rob’s chardonnay and pinot, a bit of skin contact with the juice is no disadvantage. It was a nice chilly night here in the Hills last night, so perfect conditions for picking.

Also, because it has been machine harvested, the Chardonnay will need to be destemmed and pumped straight into the press.

The Pinot Noir will be put through the crusher/destemmer and pumped to a little open fermenter, where yeast will be added. It will ferment away in contact with the skins for around a week. Don’t forget that all the colour is in the skins, so this gives maximum opportunity to extract all the colour and also tannins into the fermenting juice.

Pressing versus crushing – what’s the difference? When making white wine, the fruit is usually pressed before primary fermentation. This is a gentle process which minimises the amount of skin contact with the juice. For red wines though, the grapes are first crushed to maximise the amount of skin contact (for colour and flavour) and pressed after fermentation to squeeze out the remainder of the juice and remove the skins and seeds, etc. Of course, there are many ways to make red and white wines, so you will see variations on these processes depending on the style.

All of Rob’s hard work has, quite frankly, worn me out… so, I’m off for a week of R&R with the family. But never fear! Your guest blogger, Lucy will be taking the reigns next week. Go easy on her!

Gelati Party!

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something to do on Sunday 25th March you should plan a trip to Hahndorf and our Gelati Party! It’s “Crush Take 2” (with, fingers crossed, much cooler weather this time) where Somerled, Scott & La Prova Wines and Hersey Vineyard will be joining forces on the lawn (behind the Scott cellar door at 102 Main Street, Hahndorf) for a celebration of cool jazz music, delicious dude food, amazing wine and, of course, Gelati!

I mean, why wouldn’t you be there?