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Day 19 of Clare Valle Vintage - Kerri's Shiraz babies

Published:  23 July, 2008

G'day Folks. Sometimes I just need to pinch myself. I really am blessed to be a part of this wonderful Australian wine industry and to share in all of its great diversity.

Although our regions stretch far and wide, my friends and colleagues are just a wine related phone call away and I often wonder if the same strong network of collaboration exists within other countries wine fraternities. Maybe that's a quality of ours that makes us so strong.

I spent most of today mulling over some issues and queries I had in relation to my Shiraz parcels. I feel terrible talking about them behind their backs/skins but you can rest easy because I can assure you I have been talking all day to their faces/skins and so I'm sure they are only too happy I'm giving them a break.

This vintage I'm working with a new vineyard and so don't have the all-important history to draw upon. Am I dealing with the season vagary? Or is it the vineyard itself? When it comes to dysfunctional dynamics we don't ever want to be passing judgement, but one must always ask themselves Is it me??? Am I not giving them what they need?

My poor Shiraz babies have been crying for help. They've been producing hydrogen sulfide despite my best efforts to add oxygen to build up healthy yeast cells, they've needed lots of turning to extract their natural tannin and they've needed a stronger than usual yeast innoculum to see them through the end of fermentation. The little darlings are not making themselves that's for sure.

During our discussions today, albeit very one sided, we've covered vineyard health, yeast culturing procedures, nutrient additions and alcohol production just to name a few. I know you must all be on the edge of your seats, but I guarantee you this was important wine workshopping.

Similarly when any relationship turns sour one turns to others for support and so I rang other winemaker mates just to see what their experiences were. In one afternoon I have learnt about what's happening with ferments in McLaren Vale, talked about ripeness in Coonawarra and have possibly sourced some good old brandy spirit for my Shiraz fortification from over in the Riverland. Thanks to all my mates who have been a shoulder to lean on today.

Whilst I may not have answered all or any of my initial queries for that matter, I'm feeling better after the catch ups. There's something about talking to comrades that just makes you feel more in control, makes you look at things from a different perspective and help you to relax and enjoy it again. One dear friend's sage advice was to just grab a bucket and go for a walk outside. Sit down and just take a break. To just let the natural course flow.

When it comes down to it, ferments are a living, breathing thing. Like any individual in life that needs to find their feet sometimes you've just got to give them some space.

Sometimes as a winemaker you have to be a good listener. Who knows, maybe tonight after getting it all off their chest, like me they can have a rest, remember what lessons they've learned and look forward to a new day tomorrow. Sweet dreams.

Kerri Thompson is winemaker/director of KT & The Falcon