More exciting news - my 2010 Sparkling Roussanne has been selected for service by the glass at Vue de Monde, in Lui’s bar and in the restaurant! I haven’t made it up onto the rarified climes of 55th floor of the Rialito building to dine yet, but my wine has!
I often see people raise an eyebrow when they see that my sparkling wine, made by Methode Champenoise, is made from Roussanne. Why Roussanne they ask? Well because I grow Roussanne of course! And I have made a speciality of understanding the variety and how you can achieve different levels of varietal flavour by picking fruit from different parts of the vine at different different levels of ripeness. As a result you can produce all sorts of wine styles from the one patch of the vineyard.
I made my first Sparkling Roussanne in 2009. That was the year the last drought bit hardest, the year of the Black Saturday bushfires and when the GFC struck! Remember that awful time? The only good thing about the constant bushfire updates was that it stopped you hearing news about which world renowned business had gone to the wall overnight!
My grape supply contract had come to an end. Prospective buyers of grapes were denied credit by their now chastened banks, so couldn’t find the finance to buy the fruit they had expressed interest in. And my relative proximity to the bushfires (I am 30 minutes drive from Kilmore, where the fires started, though they travelled south and east) meant there was a fear of smoke taint in the fruit I had. Those buyers that had money were too nervous to buy fruit that may have been tainted.
I figured I would have to do a radical re-think of everything I did. It wasn't an option to sell, vineyards were two a penny and making nothing. That’s when I decided to grow and make varieties I liked drinking myself - thinking that if you like the wines you make, it makes it easier for you to sell them. Above all I wanted to plant varieties that suited our locale and made wine that went really well with food.
So I began my grafting programme turning the Cabernet fruit I had been growing under contract over to Italian varieties that suited our warm climate. And I become more serious about my winemaking and building the brand I had just started to develop. As I had always enjoyed a sparkling wine, I decided to make a sparkling wine from the Roussanne I grew. After all the Tallis family up the road at Dookie were making a sparkling wine from their Vigonier and Tahbilk and Goublurn Terrace were making sparkling wine from Marsanne.
We hand pick the greener bunches from deep under the foliage at around 10.5 degrees baume (the normal table wine is made from fruit that is exposed to the sun and has turned a lovely russet colour and measures about 13 degrees baume). And from these lean, green handpicked bunches we fashion a crisp and austere dry white wine which exudes delicate hints of varietal pear and a steely acid backbone.
Then around June each year we ship that crisp, light, dry white wine down to Kilchurn winery at Romsey. Who are specialist small-batch sparkling wine producers. There the wine is put into the bottle it will ultimately be released in with a little added yeast and sugar and sealed with a crown seal.
It undergoes its second fermentation in that bottle stacked in layers, end on end, in large crates a pallet in size. It is left there until we need to think about disgorging and getting it ready for sale. I had the 2010 Sparkling Roussanne that is being served at Vue de Monde disgorged a couple of months ago. So it has had 3 years on lees in the bottle. As stocks get low I will arrange for another pallet to be disgorged and leave the rest to continue developing flavour until we need it.
Three years quiet maturation in bottle have given the nose lovely yeasty bready flavours that people look for in good quality sparkling wine. It is also served by the glass at Koots Salle a Manger in Kooyong and can be purchased online.