Pinot Noirs with funkosité
Our early vintages were made with Bruce Dowding and David Creed. Bruce worked many vintages with Jacques Frederic Mugnier in Musigny, where Guy Accad was consulting. David was dux in his year at Roseworthy and is perhaps the greatest winemaking intellect I have encountered.
Accad’s legacy is our extended pre-ferment cold-maceration and our vigorous pigeage by foot throughout fermentation, three to four times daily. This brings colour and extract from the skins.
David is in draining our wines to barrel at dryness without settling, retaining all the yeast lees in the wine in barrel. This brings a chocolate, mocha flavour to the mid-palate of the wine.
We pick small buckets of fruit about a week before harvest and foot-crush them. They are left in various parts of the vineyard to ferment spontaneously. If these ferments are sound, we use them to inoculate the Pinot Noir harvested a week later. All will be different, so we try and use as many as possible across the various ferments. If any of the ferments become excessively volatile, I’ll sprinkle a very small amount of commercial yeast on top to continue the ferment and clean it up.
I’m comfortable with low levels of volatility and I use two different yeast: RC212 and BM45. Both produce high levels of glycerol, adding ‘slipperiness’ or ‘silkiness’ to the wine. I attribute ‘wild ferment’ character not to ‘wild’ or indigenous yeast, rather to a long and slow fermentation. Over a long fermentation, the yeast finds the ethanol being produced becomes toxic; and they produce mucyl polyglycerides and glycyl polysaccharides as a defensive response. These complex flavours are most appealing and add volume and complexity to the finished wine.
We do not inoculate for malolactic fermentation, rather allow it to proceed naturally in barrel. If this process is unhurried it can produce characteristics we taste as ‘hung game’: cadavericine and putrescine.
The wines are not racked until bottling and we resist adding sulphur until this stage, usually about 20 ppm. The wines are not filtered, retaining a rich texture as well as aromatic lift. I feel filtering ‘beats up’ aromatics and subtlety of the wine.
To me, these techniques enable funkosité, our trademark Moondarra, style.
The fruit is all hand-picked and processed on-site at Moondarra. Winemaking varies slightly for each of the Pinot’s, influenced by the differences in terroir, to highlight these nuances in flavour.
All the wines are grown on deep, volcanic soils. These are free-draining and rich in minerals, bringing robust, ferrous flavour to our Pinot Noirs.
This part of the vineyard faces the North East morning sun. It is also sheltered from the stress of the South West winds. This aspect brings ‘prettiness’ to the wine. Average bunch weights are in the order of 50 grams, with tiny berries. Flavours are very much Cerise and Fraise. The grapes are crushed into small open fermenters, with about a third put in on top as whole bunches. At harvest, the stems are quite dry, they bring an ‘amaro’, bittersweet tannin, a little like dried orange peel. As soon as the wine is dry it is drained to barriques. For ‘Conception’ they are mostly new Tronçais, coopered by Madame Remond, MTL or ‘medium toast’.
We recommend this with Peking duck.
Facing the angrier afternoon sun, Samba Side is named after the Sambar Deer who foraged on the vines when we first planted the vineyard. This part of the vineyard is also impacted by the South Westerly winds, which stress the vines. Bunches in Samba Side are incredibly small and average about 35 grams weight each. The grapes have incredibly thick skins with extraordinary intense morello flavour.
About two-thirds of the fruit is put in the fermenters as whole bunches and the remaining crushed on top. The wine has layers of tannin; derived from skins and pips, the desiccated stems, and the savoury oak. We use mostly new Domenic Laurent ‘Magic’ barriques. All harvested from old-growth Tronçais, with extremely thick staves.
Perfect with tea-smoked duck.
I sold my 1957 Studebaker President to buy the fenceposts for our first vineyard at Moondarra. Our Studebaker Pinot Noir is the most accessible of the three Pinot Noir wines we produce. The fruit is completely crushed and destemmed before fermentation.
When drained to oak we use 500-litre puncheons rather than 225-liter Burgundy barriques. Mostly Remond Alier and low-toast, MTL. These larger vessels offer a fabulous way for the wine to interact with the yeast lees without adding oak tannin, rather relying on fruit tannin to give structure to the wine. When tipsy I can sing you a love song about my old car, a modern masterpiece in design by Raymond Lowey!
My dear friend Mitsuo makes duck tataki which sings with Studebaker and a drop of ponsu.
Old School Nebbiolo
Like our Pinot Noirs, our Nebbiolo is macerated on skins before fermentation. We retain about a third as whole bunches. We ‘dance’ in the wine three or four times a day through ferment to extract colour and flavour and to mix the warmer, actively fermenting must, with the cooler, inactive, must. This is extremely important given its usually late-May by the time we’ve picked Nebbiolo, macerated the must, and started fermentation. We usually inoculate the Nebbiolo with a bucket of Pinot from my favourite ferment. When the wine is close to dry it’s locked up, retaining some CO2 from fermentation to protect it, with skins and stems for a year, before being drained to old barriques for a few more months before bottling. Minimal sulphur is added just before bottling without filtration.
Nebbiolo’s acid and tannin are perfect with the ‘melt in your mouth’ sweetness of Wagyu, and if it’s Wagyu steak try sprinkling a little powdered, dried porcini or shiitake like you’d use salt, but to add umami.
Pinot Grigio Friulano unfiltered & skin fermented.
Studebaker Bianco is one conclusion in a series of experiments in texture and tannin in white wine, a post-punk, post-natural, tangy, minerally, crunchy gargle.
Earlier incarnations have been labelled as ‘after Kathleen’, ‘Ramato’ and ‘Reverse Cowgirl’ or have simply been unlabelled experimental wines, gifted to friends and the unsuspecting.
James Broadway introduced me to the wines of Josko Gravner with the 1998 vintage. These wines were a profound shift from convention and piqued my curiosity, inspiring a series of vinous explorations with skin contact and unfiltered white wine.
We crushed fruit rather than press off skins. Some juice is left to ferment to dryness on skins, some partially fermented on skins and some just left for a few hours’ pre-ferment.
The portion of juice with skins is fermented in small, open bins and the cap plunged occasionally to keep wet and avoid volatility. The wine is drained to old oak with the yeast lees to integrate the sourdough flavours from the autolysis of the lees before bottling in Spring without fining or filtration. About a third of the juice is fermented in small, old oak without skin contact. We add sulphur after primary fermentation to preserve freshness.
The overt green-melon ‘fruitiness’ is a pleasant surprise. Texturally it’s a joy. Leaving the wine unfiltered retains viscosity as well as almond blossom aromatics. The ‘phenolic’, skinsy crunch (which comes from the fermentation on skins) acts as a kind of picture frame around the wine defining the honeydew and pear flavours complemented by ginger spice confined within these borders.
I love the aromatic cherry blossom and jasmine aromatics.
I’ve found the wine a treat with any crustaceans but pan-fried vineyard snails, garlic and butter with nettles is my favourite match.
More than a lifetime’s work, an ambitious project for my children to grow old with. Ultimately a blend of Picolit, Mendoza clone Chardonnay and Ribolla Giallo blended with Picolit seedlings which have been crossed with Chardonnay and Ribolla. There’s also a little Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Friulano to add to this fruit salad.
Hand-picked fruit is crushed and fermented on skins without inoculation before maceration for about a month after fermentation is complete. Sulphur is added after the primary ferment to prohibit malolactic fermentation and preserve Granny Smith acidity. The wine is drained to old barriques for ageing on lees. The dry grown fruit has an extraordinary concentration of flavour which balances the tannin derived from the skins. The wine is bottled in Spring without fining or filtration.
Conception Bianco is a profound and complex wine. It has intensity and persistence of flavour with delightful balance. There is an array of different flavours competing for attention, with different nuances revealing themselves at each taste.