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Whilst the winery can impart influence through oak and yeast selection, whole cluster inclusion, ferment temperature control and the like - these factors, are obviously important, they are never allowed to overshadow the product of the vineyard.
We see the winemaking role as one of the custodians of the vineyard bounty. We seek to express the footprint of the vineyard rather than the thumbprint of the winemaking. The wines are grown to be expressive of variety and to resonate with a sense of place and time.
Unlike most of Australia, our cool climate produces fruit of innately high natural acidity and intense, yet elegant structure; hence there is little need for us to meddle with what the vineyard delivers.
In 2002 we constructed our on-site winery, with a sub-ground barrel hall, to process the fruit gently as well as providing low ambient temperatures. This minimises the mechanical interferences and temperature variability. Since 2002 all fruit processing and winemaking, including bottling, occurs on site.
Both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are processed in multiple lots; ideally keeping each block & clonal lot and specific winery treatment separate. After one year in oak, every barrel is assessed to separate out those barrels that are not up to the stringent benchmarks set for Curly Flat labelled wines. These declassified barrels (provided they are deemed of a suitable quality) are directed to our 'junior' label - Williams Crossing. These 'junior' label wines represent outstanding value at their price points.
Our main approach for Chardonnay is gentle whole bunch pressing and barrel fermentation - but a small portion may be crushed or a minor portion may be partially tanking fermented, depending on the season. The tank ferments are further separated with some transferred to oak (to finish ferment) and some kept in tank. The use of some tank ferment allows us to see the wine in different shades - giving us a better understanding of pure fruit expression as well as oak impression. While a number of yeasts are used, most of the ferments are natural; natural yeast fermentation for Chardonnay was introduced in 2005. This provides one of the building blocks for the wine development, leading to improved texture and a more varietal flavour profile. The level of malolactic ferment is a vintage by vintage decision and is based on trial work. Before bottling, blending trials determine the final assemblage.
Pinot Noir processing is focussed on small separate lots - up to 33 lots, with fermenter sizes ranging from 1,000L to 5,000L. Each lot varies in the proportion of whole cluster, whole berry and, occasionally, crushed fruit. Like most of the variables in our winery, these proportions vary vintage to vintage. We use a percentage of whole clusters to enhance a range of characters; primary fruit lift, mouthfeel, tannin structure, persistence/palate length and colour stability. However, we have found Mariafeld and D5V12 usually have inherent characters not suitable for whole cluster inclusion. Since 2003 the main yeasts are natural (ambient) which produce lower alcohol, lower VA, lower pH and improved mouthfeel.
The oak handling for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir involves a variety of coopers (all French), forests and toast levels to deliver further expressions of fruit and provide a greater range of blending options.