Simply put minimal intervention is the belief that as little should be done to the wine as possible. This means minimal use of any chemical, including sulphur dioxide, even reducing or eliminating the use of pumps used to move wine around.
While we here at Oakvale are not certified organic or bio-dynamic we do believe in and adhere to most of those practices. James believes that wine is first and foremost created in the vineyard. Once it arrives to us in the cellar our main focus is to “just not mess it up!”
So, what does all of this really mean to you, the wine drinker?
You may notice a few things that are a little different about our wines. For one, your hangover may be less extreme given the minimal amount of sulphur that we use. Not to mention less congestion and irritation if you are a person who is particularly sensitive to sulphur. Always a good thing!
Additionally, you may occasionally notice what appears to be glass or crystals in your bottle. If wines are not cold stabilized (bear with me, I’ll explain this soon) there is a chance that crystals will form when the wine is refrigerated or stored for long periods of time. These “wine crystals” are cause by tartaric acid, which is naturally found in wine grapes. They are not harmful to you in any way but I understand that it can be unsettling to see them in your wine glass. The process to stop this from happening is referred to as Cold Stabilization. You can add several additives to wine or cool it down to below freezing for an extended period of time in order to make a wine “cold stable.” However, this process goes against our belief in minimal intervention so we don’t do it. If you would like more information on this process please feel free to email us or give us a call and we’d be happy to go into more detail for you.
("wine crystals" in the bottom of a bottle)
The less chemical manipulation we can get away with the better! This leaves you with the knowledge that by drinking Oakvale wine you are getting the most natural, traditional product that we can make. I don’t know about you, but we definitely sleep a little better at night knowing that. (The bottle of Chardonnay we may or may not polish off doesn't hurt either…)
Oakvale “Drink Better”
Here at Oakvale Wines we are consistently experimenting with the art of making wine. Even though there is much chemistry and research on the subject, we have discovered that sometimes you just have to rely on instinct and innovation.
Our newest experiment this vintage has been with whole cluster fermentation and carbonic maceration. Before you stop reading because I got all technical, just bare with me a minute and let me explain. Simply put, it is customary these days to de-stem and crush the grapes before fermentation. We have fermented some small batches up to 100% whole cluster for our Hunter Valley Shiraz. This means we did not crush the berries and left them on the stems throughout the fermentation process. Each berry acts as its own fermentation vessel, which undergoes an enzymatic fermentation. The results are really exciting!
There is much technical debate over what this will actually do for the end product, but we are hoping to see the beautiful, bright fruit characters that are usually produced with carbonic maceration. This, combined with the hints of dried spice aromas which fermenting on ripe stems can give to the juice, will lead to an elegant, lifted, complex wine.
(Whole cluster before fermentation)
While this process is new to Oakvale, it is far from new in the wine industry. In fact, it was common practice in Burgundy for hundreds of years before it fell out of favour in the 1980s and 1990s. Only recently have we seen an increase in the number of wineries experimenting with some percentage of whole-cluster. It is most commonly used with Pinot Noir grapes but can be utilized with any varietal, often to tone down extracted characteristics and add another layer to the wine.
Hundreds of years ago the motivation for using the whole-cluster method may have had a little to do with the convenience of tossing the entire bunches into the fermenting vessel. However, that is certainly no longer the reason to experiment with this technique. James had the opportunity to work with whole cluster Pinot Noir in California and could not wait to get back and use what he had learned.
We can’t wait to see how this Shiraz is looking later this year. Stay tuned…
Oakvale “Drink Different”
(Whole cluster after fermentation)