“Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.” Oscar Wilde
It is with a wistful sense of nostalgia, that for a moment, we can enjoy reliving 2019 over again. Although such a short time ago, #V2019 seems a distant memory of better times prior to the confluence and consequences of droughts, bushfires and pandemics. A bottle of 2019 red is as good as a diary to a winemaker or viticulturalist. And in the time it takes to drink one; the highlights of the season flood back with clarity until the second bottle where the days aren’t remembered only the moments; until the third bottle where…um….what was I saying again..
So back to the wines. Now is a period where winemakers are carefully studying 2019 reds to gauge the early signs of vintage quality. Most will have been in bottle for enough time to have recovered from any bottle shock and are now settling into their stride. The vintage gave us great colour and intense varietal concentration. The 2019 vintage experienced hot and dry weather with a faster than normal ripening period. I was conscious of how that had affected the tannin structure on the vine during berry tasting which then influenced winemaking decisions. The key in hot years is to gently macerate the grapes during fermentation. We take great care in using gentle techniques like “irrigating” the cap rather than excessive “rack and returns” or extended maceration periods. This helps to “tame the tannins” and I believe that on early inspection our 2019 reds have benefitted from this approach. The tannin quality appears excellent because it is sitting within the fruit weight and the fruit is extending and carrying further along the palate rather being left with hard drying tannin on the finish.
Now the aging question. Firstly, Mudgee as a region ages well over the long term (15+ years) whether it be for whites or reds. Here, whites and reds have great mid-palate acidity. In addition, well-made whites have a very fine phenolic line through them which gives them longevity. In my experience, reds in Mudgee rarely display green, unpalatable tannins. They generally have ripe, firm tannins that over time melt away and are perfectly suited to long term maturation. And the third sign of a suitable wine to age is fruit concentration. The 2019 harvest delivered us full bodied wines because of the drier season. If a red wine is not balanced as a young wine, it will not generally cellar well either.
To get the best of aging wines, you need to drink some now and put the rest away to be opened intermittently. Contrary to popular belief, there is not just the ascension to a single peak and it’s downhill from there. The journey can be a series of hills and valleys, each with their own enjoyable aspects and expressions. You don’t always get a great view, but that doesn’t mean you have missed the best part. Most importantly, at each point the tasting result should be interesting.
We don’t all have a purpose-built cellar but we usually have a space that is almost as good. Wine is generally more resilient than we think. It can handle some temperature variation, so long as it does not get too warm. The ideal storage environment is 13˚C in a dark location. Wine refrigerators are a solution and good ones (in a range of capacities) are a worthwhile investment.
This 2019 Mixed red offer gives you a diverse selection of wines that will each take a different path over time. The decision of whether to hold ‘em or fold ‘em is entirely up to you and depends ultimately on how they appear today in terms of balance. And as you add to the bottled “diary” entries, it becomes an enjoyable way to recall the good times and start making new ones.
by Robert Black – Senior Winemaker