Our Reserve Shiraz is our best wine, the best fraction from the best ferment from the best fruit – from our vineyard. For us, shiraz is the holy grail of Swan Valley winemaking. It is the ultimate application of winemaking craft to great fruit to achieve a dramatic wine of power, depth of flavour, and ability to age and become richer and more complex.
We use the fruit from rows 12 to 20 – we have 25 rows. We feel these vines have the perfect balance of fruit and shoots, the crop is lighter here, the vines a little more open, and the berries marginally smaller. The fruit is harvested only a day or two later than the other rows, but is always riper than the other shiraz.
We chill the fruit, to slow the onset of fermentation, to allow a greater time on skins. It is during the time on skins before pressing – about 12 days – that the style and quality of the wine is determined. All the fruit flavours, the colours, and most of the tannins are extracted in this short period. It is “now or never” for red winemaking. We also concentrate the must – draining away a portion to increase the ratio of the remaining juice to skin. It isn’t science – it’s experience and trust. Tasting the juice, sniffing the aromas coming from the fermenter as one pumps the juice over the skins – backwards, forwards, left and right.
We press the must at the moment we decide there is nothing more to gain from the skins. From the single fermenter we separate 3 fractions – often less than a barrel’s worth. From the two or three ferments we assess all the batches and rank them. We look for power and flavour. The best batch goes to barrel one and is topped with the next best and so on until four, five, or six barrels are filled.
We use a barrel coopered in Burgundy – we love them for the wonderful smoky aroma and sweetness they add to the wine. The oak is obvious but not dominant. We use hogsheads because they are less likely to overpower the wine than smaller barrels, allowing us to maximise the time the wine matures in oak. We keep the barrels in the cool room over summer.
Now we have a dilemma! Which barrels are good enough for a Reserve? Those that miss out go to Riche. We taste the wine a lot. We need to be sure all is well. So far we have always drawn the line after the first two barrels. These are each kept separate, right through maturation. The wine is bottled when we feel it can’t improve further in oak. It is pumped out into tank and hand bottled the next morning.
And that is why we call it our “Reserve”.