Wine, olives, figs, food and functions... there's a lot happening at di Lusso Estate!
We are often asked whether one should chill a red before serving, and the answer is generally yes, and here’s why:
Alcohol has a boiling point of 78 degrees, which is significantly less than water. Therefore, the higher a wine’s temperature, the more enhanced the alcohol volatility, resulting in an “alcohol burn.”
This alcohol burn is first noticed when assessing the aromatics, and depending on the temperature, it can completely overpower a wine’s bouquet.
On the palate, the alcohol cuts through the fruit and accentuates the perceived dryness, resulting in a wine that tastes “hollow, hot and dry.”
People generally prefer not to drink red wine in summer, yet if they chilled the wine down to 16-22 degrees before serving, they would find that red wine goes down perfectly well, even on the hottest of summer days.
Yet how cold can you chill a red wine?
Chilling a wine, white or red, will enhance the wine’s perceived dryness, bitterness or astringency.
Phenolic compounds called tannins are what cause this “dryness,” and they are in a much higher level of concentration in reds than whites – which is why whites can be served ice cold, whereas reds generally cannot be served less than 12 degrees.
That is unless the red wine has a low level of tannin. And if you have been to di Lusso during summer, you may have noticed that we serve our Sangiovese Rosso and our Barbera in ice buckets.
As a rule of thumb, you should serve your reds between 16-22 degrees. This would mean putting the bottle in the fridge for 10 minutes or so before serving.
And if you know that the wine has a low level of tannin, and perhaps even a small residual sugar, the wine can be chilled as low as you’d like.
So, if it’s summertime and you’re not a fan of whites, choose a light red that can be chilled, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well a chilled red wine can complement a meal, or be enjoyed on its own on the hottest of Australian summer days.
The 2017 vintage brought various changes of style.
The focus of the whites was to craft fresh, vibrant wines with high aromatic intensity and lower alcohol. This required harvesting a little earlier than usual, followed by gentle processing and cool ferments with highly aromatic yeasts.
Lighter, fresher reds have also emerged from 2017, with Sangiovese, Barbera and Nebbiolo spending less time on skins during fermentation so as to minimise tannin extraction, and little to no time in barrel, to preserve primary fruit characters.
Perhaps the biggest change in style was the Aleatico. Traditionally, Aleatico is an intense, dark and rich dessert wine that is made by fermenting on skins and fortifying to retain a high residual sugar. This was perhaps the greatest challenge of the 2016-17 summer, as Aleatico is not only the bird’s favourite variety, but with its very thin skin, the grape is very prone to disease if not highly tended. Every single bunch was inspected while still on the vine all the way up until harvest. The result is an opulent, dark ruby delight… see below.
“Floral aromatics with palate of apple, melon and touch of sea spray.”
Vermentino’s lovely, crisp palate and unique character of salt and white pepper make it the darling of dining along the coast of Liguria and the island of Sardinia – its traditional home in Italy. At di Lusso, we love to pair Vermentino with salt and pepper squid, salads and chicken.
“Passion fruit, lime and honeydew, with lovely clean acid.”
An early harvest, along with a cold ferment with a highly aromatic yeast, makes for expressive tropical aromas, and a lively palate with notes of pear, nut, tangerine and apricot.
“Light cherry, plum and blackberry.”
Most reds are fermented on their skins until dry, and this has been the case with our Barbera, yet in 2017 we decided to create a more youthful style: crush to concrete vats, ferment below 24 degrees with gentle maceration, and press off skins halfway through fermentation and complete in stainless steel – much like a white wine.
The result is a delicate wine that bursts with fruit, with a juicy, silky smooth palate that’s wonderfully refreshing when served chilled. A fantastic red for a hot summer day!
“Sweet pineapple, lemon and melon.”
Picolit is a very rare dessert wine, as it is very difficult to grow. We have not made a Picolit since 2013, so we are very happy that 2017 gave us a bounteous crop.
“Dark ruby, with rosewater, sweet blackberry and cherry.”
Aleatico was Napoleon’s favourite rink when he was exiled to the island of Elba – the variety’s traditional home. Rich, dark and fortified, the 2017 Aleatico still retains its distinctive aromatics of cherry and roses.
The start of the growing season is always exciting.
As the dormant vines wake from their winter slumber, they start to mobilise reserves of carbohydrates, sending a sweet sap up from their roots and trunks, and into their cordons and spurs.
Sometimes you’ll see an entire vineyard sparkling with tiny drips of sap; the sap collects on the tips of the spurs before they drop… and in a quiet morning, with the sun still rising, all you can hear is the gentle pitter-patter of thousands of little droplets… and if you catch one, you can taste a lovely infusion of sugar, wood and earth.
Sap rise marks the beginning of the beginning: where the dormant buds start to swell, utilising the sweet sap for growth, before they burst with little woolly buds that splay out rapidly with leaves.
At di Lusso, bud burst happens in mid to late September, with Nebbiolo and Aleatico being the first vines to burst. A heavy winter rainfall gives the vines a great boost, and they will quickly become overly vegetative if left untended.
And so the Spring and Summer work begins: going from vine to vine, removing excess shoots to ensure that the summer growth can be maintained within a healthy canopy architecture.
At the time of my previous report (alarmingly, nearly six months ago!), we were halfway through vintage 2015 at di Lusso Estate.
Well, I’m pleased to report that both the grape and fig harvest both proceeded to a successful conclusion. On the other hand, the olive harvest was light; again a victim of strong winds experienced in November, when flowering had not yet run its course.
So, with close to 60,000 litres of finished and maturing wine lying around the winery, over a tonne of fig pulp lying in bottles or in our freezers and unfortunately only a few hundred litres of olive oil in tank or bottle, di Lusso Estate winery is busting at the seams right now!
Dave Kyngdon is about to bottle the first of our 2015 vintage. The first bottling (in time for our annual Wine Festival) will consist of Pinot Grigio, Vermentino and Arneis (our first since 2013), Aleatico (again, our first in a couple of years), and Vino Rosato (only a few pallets, lovingly made predominantly with Aleatico). We’re proud of all of them; a joy to make after the ‘challenging’ 2014 vintage!
So far, it’s been the coldest winter I can remember for several years on the estate… and still is, as I write. There’s been enough rain – at least where we are, but patchy elsewhere, I understand – to suggest the right conditions to set up a good spring.
With everybody expecting a dry El Niño period ahead, there’s been plenty of vineyard maintenance, especially irrigation, happening. We’re also making a concerted effort to fill in any gaps in the vine rows to attend to in spring, replace the inevitable broken posts, wires etc., and repair the countless potholes caused by both rain and traffic.
In the kitchen, Ali’s Winter Menu has been very popular with the visitors – just the right mix of simple pastas, warming soups and hearty stews. This weather makes it hard to believe we’re only a month away from ‘calendar spring’, and taking an early look at our next menu. We might wait a couple of weeks and launch the Spring Menu to coincide with the start of the 2015 Mudgee Wine & Food Festival on the 12th of September.
Talking of that date, it also marks our next Regional Dinner; this one is featuring the food, wine and stories of Alto Adige – Italy’s mountainous region on the border with Austria. Details are available at the cellar door or on our website.
In closing, Luanne and I, as well as the whole di Lusso team, look forward to your next visit… hopefully in time to witness the wonder of a vineyard spring!
Well, we’re halfway through a very interesting vintage indeed! One that started with an extraordinary warm, dry spring…then a markedly cool and somewhat humid summer. Now that the end of summer is literally a week away, in taking stock of the journey so far, I can say I would have settled for the outcome so far any day.
As I write, we’ve harvested our Aleatico and Lagrein (or half of them), Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Arneis, some Chardonnay and Savignan (both from an adjacent vineyard, for blending into our Adagio and Allegro styles). Next week, its the turn of Sangiovese and Vermentino (and the remaining Aleatico and Lagrein).
Volumes have for the most part been on target, and we’re pleased with fruit quality, and wine,maker David Kyngdon (whose feet we see appearing under the press) is working enormous hours keeping up with nature!
Having managed a bottling of 2014 whites in May, before month end we will be bottling a number of styles for release in the New Year (2015). These include;
2013 Lagrein … after a couple of year’s gap, this beautiful red wine grape has produced what we think is a very smart dunkelt (dark, even big) wine, with those customary blackberry plum aromas and spicy dark fruit flavours.
2013 Nebbiolo … easily the best since 2008 – not surprising, given the long, dry autumn of 2013. All the elements are there …. autumn undergrowth, violets, wood smoke etc.
2013 Chardonnay … partly out of frustration with those mean, sunshineless styles we are seeing (and how can a Chardonnay ever be styled without oak?), partly because we found some really good (but very ripe) fruit in a season when there wasn’t much else available, partly because of di Lusso’s growing Burgundy ‘connection’ (see below), this is our first. David Kyngdon has made a wine that is full of almond and hazelnut aromas, pursued by a palate that is full-bodied, covered in dried tropical fruits, and includes just a hint of butter. It’s not a Burgundy, but is at least generous! Great with rainbow trout with almonds.
2014 Adagio … with the dearth of Italian variety fruit available, this release is a blend of Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. A light-hearted ‘Chalkboard) wine full of peach, pear and tropical fruitiness. A summer aperitif, even?