We see a lot written about the mystery of wine quality or the “art” of winemaking. Well, we can state that without good grapes no winemaker stands a chance.
In fact we believe that the quality potential of our wines start at 100 per cent when the fruit is picked and we aim to make and bottle our wine as close to 100 percent as possible. The role of the winemaker is not so much to enhance the grapes, but to preserve and highlight their quality and character.
Growing good grapes is a combination of the suitability of a given vineyard location for the variety, and the techniques employed by the grape grower. We know from experience that the Swan Valley is an ideal location to grow ripe, disease free shiraz grapes.
Faber Vineyard has a slight slope and very free draining soil. Below the ironstone gravel and sandy topsoil is a layer of ironstone conglomerate known as “coffee rock”. A D9 bulldozer ripped this when we established the vines, allowing the roots to reach a clay layer about 1.5 metres below the surface. This clay has excellent water holding capacity and allows the vines to grow throughout spring and summer without irrigation.
The dry summer heat and easterly winds ensure we have low disease pressure. The dry conditions restrict the vines’ growth and we are able to manage with a simple trellis system known as “vertical shoot positioning”. This ensures the leaves provide protection of the fruit from sunburn, whilst allowing plenty of diffuse light that promotes colour and flavour development.
We prune to a very low bud number that restricts our crop to a level that the canopy and roots can readily sustain and ripen. Whilst low crops are not a quality factor in themselves, low cropping fruit is associated with excellent fruit exposure, low disease, and early maturity – all signs of healthy highly flavoured fruit.
Each vintage provides a unique set of weather conditions that impact on grape flavour and composition. This causes vintage variation in the balance of grape flavour, sugar, acid, and tannin, and manifests itself in the unique taste, balance, structure, and ageing potential of each vintage.
The time of harvest is quite critical. Too early may mean that tannins are “green” and acid level higher resulting in a leaner, tighter wine. Too late a harvest will mean an excess of raisined berries and a high sugar resulting in a hot porty wine. Neither will age well.
We continually observe and taste the fruit and also test the sugar level. Taste and fruit condition are critical. Given that we live and work on the vineyard we can be very flexible and harvest on exactly the morning we feel it is at its peak.
We believe we have combined the wonderful suitability of Shiraz and the Swan Valley with thoughtful and considered vineyard management. This produces the superb raw material from which we craft our Reserve Shiraz.