Archive for the ‘Wine talk’ Category

Clean and green approach to winemaking

Many wine-lovers find that they can enjoy Treeton Estate wines without the headaches and hayfever-like reactions that they find with some other wines.

David McGowan, our vigneron and winemaker, uses a combination of clean, green, traditional techniques and modern advances to hand craft his wines using sulphur as the only antioxidant preservative.

David’s philosophy and approach to winemaking is to grow premium fruit and then to allow grape quality and terroir to define the character of his wines.  Using optimum vineyard management and a scrupulously clean and cool processing environment removes the need for additives.

Specially designed pruning and foliage management techniques, natural fertilisers and early use of low concentration sulphur sprays, control the development of natural yeasts and fungus.  David thereby limits the need for other control techniques, while still producing first-rate fruit.

Modern machine harvesters are used as they are clean and fast, allowing the fruit to be picked at or before sunrise while the grapes are still cool from the cold night air.

David pays close attention to using tanks and equipment which are meticulously  cleaned and where temperatures are tightly controlled.

After fermentation is complete, the wines are first treated with naturally-occurring clay (bentonite) to remove unwanted grape proteins. Inorganic compounds such as tartrates are then removed by reducing the temperature of the wine to below zero.  Modern filtration techniques are used to polish the wine without risking the introduction of contaminants.

No milk, egg, fish, nut or animal products are used in Treeton Estate’s wine production process – avoiding the risks of allergic reaction that these products can create for some individuals.

This clean, green approach could be the reason that many people find they can enjoy Treeton Estate wines without allergenic after effects.

Wine allergy symptoms

The medical profession suggests that, when drunk in moderation, wine can be both an enjoyable and a sensible part of a healthy diet.

Unfortunately, many wine-lovers find that certain wines can trigger mild adverse physiological effects such as headaches and hayfever-like symptoms.

While there is no clear agreement among allergy specialists and oenologists (the science of wine processing), these adverse reactions are thought to reflect hypersensitivity and mild allergic responses to natural compounds in wines (such as tannins and histamines) and to certain additives that may be used in wine production.

Sulphur (including wine sulfites), egg whites, isinglass (fish bladders), nuts, gelatine and milk products have traditionally been used to remove unwanted proteins, tastes and inorganic components in the processing of fine wines.  Under Australian law, consumers should be alerted to any additives on the wine bottle label.

Oenology journals advise sensitive individuals to try small quantities of wines that are not labelled as containing allergens and then to stick to those that don’t cause a reaction.

No milk, egg, fish, nut or animal products are used in Treeton Estate’s wine production process – avoiding the risks of allergic reaction that these products can create for some individuals.

This is perhaps the reasons that many wine-lovers find that they can enjoy Treeton Estate wines without the headaches and hayfever-like reactions that they find with some other wines.


Bronze medal at Visy Great Australian Shiraz Challenge

Following up its wins at the Murrambateman, Cowra and Australian Small Winemaker Shows in 2008, Treeton Estate’s 2007 Shiraz has just taken a Bronze Medal in the 2009 Visy Great Australian Shiraz Challenge.

Smooth and fresh, with a bouquet of oak mulberries and spice, this wine is drinking beautifully.  Buy now before the price goes up when we release the 2008 vintage.

Tasting wine

Humans (and other animals) have evolved  three independent molecular sensors to probe their environment and to convert the detection of chemicals into specific patterns of brain activity.  And so allow us to separate a young from a mature cheddar and to take pleasure from the subtle differences between the 2007 and 2008 Treeton Estate Shiraz. 

The taste sensory epithelium (‘taste buds’) of the mouth provide an immediate sampling of the ionic, calorific and potentially hazardous properties of food and drink: the classical taste components of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (ionic glutamate).

The main olfactory epithelium (MOE) lining the back of the nasal cavity can detect several thousand small volatile chemicals at very low concentrations.

The vomeronasal organ in the nasal cavity  is more specialised in the detection of certain complex chemical signatures called pheronomes.

As we eat and drink, chemicals released in the mouth and throat reach the nasal cavity and stimulate our sense of smell 

The result is a rapid stream of taste and smell information, which merged in the brain, generates the essential components of what we perceives as the taste of food:

 “Smell and taste are in fact but a single sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and whose chimney is the nose ….” (J-A Brillat-Savarin, 1825).

A classical model of taste discrimination has long proposed that the tongue has a coarse organisation between the five different taste detector cells.  This model has proven to be inaccurate, with each specific taste detector cell found in all regions across the tongue.

We cannot rely on our taste buds or or nasal detectors to work alone. Fine-tuned wine discrimination occurs only after information processing in the brain.  It is for this reason that we should take time to fully savor the taste of our wine.  When tasting , separation of  ‘front palate’ and ‘back palate’ does not reflect the physical location of wine in our mouth but the timing and integration of of new information received by the brain from aromatic chemicals stimulating the MOE.

So find somewhere to relax and good friends to share the experience.  Talk about the wines being tasted and learn together.

Good health!

John Simmonds

European Union changes mind on rosé

A recent decision by the European Union (EU) to allow their winemakers to create rosé wines by mixing red and white wines has been reversed in the face of strong opposition.

Traditional winemakers reacted strongly, declaring that only traditional maceration techniques could create the transparent pink color, captivating aromas and fragile structure of a true rosé. 

The change was proposed to create opportunity for EU winemakers to compete against lower-cost, less-regulated southern hemisphere producers as they target expanding Asian markets.

The decision will impact on new opportunities for some Australian producers to export into the EU.

John Simmonds

The colour of rosé

(C) 2008 Steve CukrovModern Australian rosé is a pinkish-red colored wine with a taste palate blending strawberry, blackberry, cherry and raspberry characters.   The style has a reputation for insipid, flavorless wines, marred by excessive  sugar or alcohol. 

But the best of the current offerings are dry to semi-dry, balanced with an acidity and fruit character that makes them a luxurious pleasure to drink

The colour of rosé range from a pale orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the grapes, additives and wine making techniques. For the paler rosé wines, grapes are pressed as soon as they arrive at the winery, with the juice left only a few hours in contact with the skin. Their colours are sometimes described as as ‘grey’ (Gris de Bourgogne, Rose de Loire or Oeil de Perdrix).

By comparison with Europe, Australian rosé wines have a more limited colour palette.  While a delicate hint of apricot is acceptable, anything further will likely be penalised by the wine show judges.  Consumers have little opportunity to experiment beyond pink-red. 

We recently conducted a round-table tasting on the characteristics of several best-selling Western Australian and eastern States rosé wines.  The experience was eye-opening, reflecting the variety of grape varieties and wine-making styles employed.  Not all wines met with approval, reflecting the panel’s taste for less sweet wines. 

Two 2008 wines equal topped the panel’s list, both Western Australian: the West Cape Howe (Denmark) and the Treeton Estate Veronica.  Both wines are well balanced, sparkling clear and ranging in color from brilliant pink to a pale red almost reminiscent of the paler clarets, filling the mouth with delicious berry fruit and cherry. 

With a very light chill (not too cold), these wines pair perfectly with salmon, fish, chicken, asian-style food, turkey, or with a subtle cheese such as emmental. Or to enjoy on their own on a relaxing afternoon.

John Simmonds

Wine tasting: Brillat-Savarin (1825)

I am fascinated by how we can distinguish such complexity in a glass of wine.

I recently came across this piece from Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the French lawyer and politician who published ‘Physiologie du goût’ (The Physiology of Taste)’ in December 1825.   A lover of wine as well as food, Brillat-Savarin wrote:

And yet of all our senses, taste, such as Nature has created it, remains the one which, on the whole, gives us the maximum of delight:

– Because the pleasure of eating is the only one, which enjoyed in moderation, is not followed by weariness
– Because it is of all times, of all ages and in all conditions
– Because it recurs of necessity at least once a day, and may without inconvenience be repeated twice or three times within the same space of time
– Because it can be enjoyed in company with all our other pleasures, and can even console us in their absence
– Because the impressions which it receives are at once more durable and more dependent on our will
– And lastly, because when we eat, we experience an indefinable and peculiar sensation of well-being, arising out of an instinctive awareness that through what we were eating we are repairing our losses and prolonging our existence.

184 years ago, he said:

A man who was fond of wine was offered some grapes at dessert after dinner. ‘Much obliged,’ said he, pushing the plate aside, ‘I am not accustomed to take my wine in pills

I can understand.   Good health!

John Simmonds

The rise of rosé

(C) 2008 iStockphoto LPTravelling in France last summer, it came as a surprise to see so many diners selecting rosé to drink with their meal.

While France’s wine growers battle lower consumption and persistent overproduction, pink wine is enjoying popularity as never before.

Driven in part by the heat of summer, sale of rosé has overtaken that of white. In 2007, over one in five bottles of wine sold in France was a rosé, with the gains coming from falling sales of red.

Pink wine is in vogue among French youth as a light-hearted, festive drink to be enjoyed with scant regard for labels, vintages, grape varietals and origin. Drunk at lunch and the evening meal, rosé is seen as perfect for an aperitif and light evening drinking.

Market research confirms that rosé wine is being drunk by men and women, young and old, and from across the cultural and economic divides. In the UK, consumption of rosé by young women is rocketing.

And these are not just the sweet rosé and blush styles. Today’s more sophisticated drinkers are increasingly selecting more delicate, drier wines.

A remarkable range of varietal characteristics can be savored in a fine rosé and I will talk about the effect of production method and grape variety on colour and taste in later posts.

Blending work with pleasure after last night’s concert at Sandalford Wines (thank you Leonard Cohen and Paul Kelly for an amazing night of sublime songs and superb musicianship), the glass of dry Treeton Estate  2008 Veronica with a salad of roast lamb, fetta,sun-dried tomato and rocket at lunch was a perfect match for this summer day.

John Simmonds

The Margaret River wine region

While many early settlers planted grape vines and made wine, the first significant planting of grape vines took place in Margaret River in 1967, following a government report into the suitability of the soils for viticulture,. Most of these first vines were planted in the Willyabrup area and this is still the most heavily planted.

The wines that were made from those first vines received early acclaim and the clamour to be part of the Margaret River region began.

Stretching 120km from north to south and 30km west to east, the Margaret River Wine Region was officially registered in 1996, making it one of the first three wine regions in Australia to have its boundaries legally defined.

Today there are over 4900 hectares (2006 data) under vine in the Margaret River wine region, with large numbers of grape producers and over 120 wine producers.  Producers include the big estate vineyards like Leeuwin, Voyager, and Cape Mentelle, through to boutique family operated concerns such as Treeton Estate.

Despite its size the Margaret River wine region produces just three percent of the nation’s grapes but is the source for production of more than 20 per cent of Australia’s premium wines.

While renowned for its Chardonnay (3981t) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5655t) wines, Shiraz (4655t) and Merlot (2179t) are other standout red varieties along with white varieties such as Semillon (4624t), Sauvignon Blanc (4483t), Chenin Blanc and Verdelho. Note: percentages correspond to the 2006 harvest by tonnes crushed.

John Simmonds

Information sources:

Margaret River Wine Industry Association.

St Emilion and the mysteries of the Appelation Controllee system (continued)

Following my last post, I have been considering this new understanding of the appellation controllee system against the quality systems that we follow in the Margaret River wine region.

In Australia, the wine industry is much less tightly regulated and the recent “grape glut” has placed pressure on wineries to optimise financial returns, often at the expense of quality and tradition.
Helen at St Emilion
The proliferation of ‘cleanskins’ reflect the wineries attempts to offload poorer wines at below market price to maintain cashflow.

These wines are often ‘mongrels’, made with grapes and grape products brought in from distant places and diverse terroirs. Such ’supermarket’ wines are cost effective for producers and cheap for wine drinkers, but lack the complexity and surprises that are the hallmark of a living terroir and changeable climate.

The Margaret River wine region is recognised as a world-class producer of fine wines, but the appellation is not as regulated as in France and the grape-growing and wine-making techniques are not always at a high standard.

In my view the Margaret River wine industry should consider a St-Emillion model, with tighter regualtion of the use of the Margaret River appellation to promote and protect the reputations of quality wineries and encourage the maintenance of the best of best grape-growing and wine-making traditions.

I must get back to work, but am looking forward to getting home and applying my newly-acquired (but still sadly limited) wine appreciation techniques to the latest Treeton Estate vintages. I will appreciate the wine more knowing that David and Corinne continue to maintain traditional techniques and standards of excellence in their wine-making.

Helen McGowan

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