Then story of Unicorn Club #7 - Autumn from winemaker, Sam Smith
By now, most of you will be aware that the VHS concept release for 2019 is - VHS presents 'Four Seasons'. A vinous anthology of four wines, which represent their respective seasons. Our research and development processes this year has focused on attempting to transform wines visually, for the first time.
Generally the foundation of every VHS concept release is conceptualising what a finished wine should taste like. In the case of Autumn and Winter, this question actually became, what should the finished wine look like? In the case of Autumn, it was very difficult for me to imagine a scenario in which 'burnt orange/red leaves' weren't falling from their proverbial trees, or in the case of wine, through the bottle amidst a hazy Autumnal sunset.
Once the aesthetic compostion had been decided upon the thought process quickly diverted to the desired flavour profile. In about as linear a thought process as has ever been executed in the winery, it was incredibly hard to go past pears, apples, riberries, and desert lime. Not only are the 4 aforementioned fruits in their natural growing season this Autumn, but they all share aromatic flavanoid compounds with each other, and would provide the perfect harmony and balance of acidity and palate sweetness. In my mind there was only one possible grape varietal in which to execute this concept, to it's fullest potential, and that was our Birdwood pinot gris.
2019 is the first vintage that we have produced a cider that will go under the VHS label. We did process a very small volume of cider in 2016 however that was used as a blending component in the 2016 Movement #1 Pet Nat Pinot Gris. Pinot Gris has a natural affinity to be blended with Apple cider, for obvious reasons, but the 2019 #6 pinot gris showed throughout fermentation that it would pair seamlessly with our 2019 Sundown Apple Cider.
A greater canopy in the Birdwood pinot gris vineyard this year, led to a higher concentraion of Methyl Butyrate, a primary aromatic compound found in apples, which further pushed the case to create a small blend of Gris and Cider. The Sundowner apples, although incredibly flavoursome lacked natural acid as they were picked quite late in the growing season. To counter this a higher proportion of Gris was required in the overall blend in order to balance the pallate sweetness of the Cider. A 70% Gris 30% cider blend, to me, looked the sharpest in the glass and worked well with the eventual addition of the Riberry and Desert Lime Spheres.
The 'Autumn Leave' Spheres were created, very simply, by first blending 500g of Riberries with 500g of Desert Limes. The puree was the worked through a sieve to remove pith and seeds. 5g of sodium alginate (algin - an extract from seaweed) was the blitzed through the pureee and left to settle overnight.
After 24 hours, a calcium bath containing H20 and 1% calcium lactate was made. The Riberry and Lime puree mixture was then dripped into the calcium bath forming spheres as the calcium solution causes the outer layer of each alginated liquid sphere to form a thin, flexible skin.
The addition of the resulting spheres, into the wine, increases the perceived acidity of the wine due to the low ph of the desert limes. As well as being utilised for a visual effect the spheres are an interesting way to add a uniquely 'Australia' flavour to the wine in very small concentrations.
After a week in bottle, however, it has become apparent that the incredible red colour of the Riberries has been leached into the wine and hence the spheres have lost mich of their orignal colour. This is a perfect example of how things don't always go to plan when I am working through the R&D phases of each wine. I will continue to work on this issue and hopefully rectify the colour stability of the spheres for future projects.
Vinification and Blending
70% #6 Gris blended with 30% 2019 Apple cider.
2019 Apple cider -
1 tonne Sundowner apples - 300L of Apple juice racked into New Francois Freres Heavy Toast Tight Gran Hogshead barrel, 100% barrel fermentation over the course of 4 weeks, cider racked into 700L stainless tank.
- Adelaide Hills
- White Blend