Cuttings - Chris Pfeiffer - October 2013
By Chris Pfeiffer
Hello our “Pfaithful Pfeiffer Pfriends”,
Here we are in October already with the next pack about to be despatched. It seems that I was writing the last Carlyle Cuttings only yesterday! We must have been busy.
At this time of the year we have just finished judging at the Rutherglen Wine Show, both Jen and I judge at the show and, consequently, don’t enter our wines. However we take the opportunity to observe developments in wine styles and how this can help make even better Pfeiffer wines.
Chardonnay was the big improver in this year’s wine show. The styles of Chardonnay that did well were those that exhibited restraint yet still had some complexity. This is a continued movement away from the big styles of a few years ago, with lower alcohol levels and more judicial use of oak. This is achieved through picking the grapes earlier so that the fruit flavours delivered are more in the melon / white peach spectrum. The wines are still fermented in oak barrels; however they are not kept in the barrel for as long so they don’t pick up as much oak character. The decision to take the wine out of barrel is critical for a number of reasons. Firstly, and the most obvious, is that this determines the pick-up of oak flavour. However, the other significant reason is that the wine is still in contact with the yeast lees and through stirring the lees (in our case, weekly), we are able to build mouthfeel (texture) in the wine. Once again, the time in barrel has a direct impact on the development of this character. All this is about building complexity into the wine which means more excitement in the taste sensation.
The Pfeiffer Chardonnay has been a restrained style for most of its existence, in the early vintages (1980’s) we tended to make the bigger (some say, more buttery) styles. However, since then we have been concentrating on more fineness and elegance in the wines. We have always fermented in barrel and stirred the lees. However, one of the other techniques that we have employed is using “wild” or indigenous yeasts to carry out the ferment, rather than a selected yeast. These wild yeasts are a collection of yeasts that live on the grapes and the important point here is that they are a collection of yeasts, not just one strain. The result of using these yeasts is that you develop different flavours during the ferment, adding to the complexity of the wine. You need to be careful, as you may also get the development of off flavours.
In making our Pfeiffer Carlyle Chardonnay Marsanne, we also look to use some of these techniques to develop complexity in our wine. As the wine is not fermented or stored in oak, we need to use the grape varieties to bring complexity to the palate. We find that Marsanne gives a fullness to the wine, a similar impact to using oak barrels. We keep the fermented wine in tank for some time, in contact with the yeast lees and stir (using a pump) the wine to bring the yeast back into suspension on a weekly basis to help build mouthfeel. The 2012 Pfeiffer Carlyle Chardonnay Marsanne has lovely mouthfeel, a creaminess on the palate yet is still balanced by a clean acid finish. The wine is drinking well right now with that little bit of bottle age giving more complexity to the palate.
I found it interesting that there was a good increase in the number of entries in the so called “Australian Blend” class in this year’s wine show. These are blends of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, which were so popular 20 years ago. They have been associated with Australia, as in other countries it is common to blend Merlot and/or Cabernet Franc with Cabernet Sauvignon. I find that the richness of the Shiraz grape gives a lovely fullness to the fine elegance of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape helping to deliver a good line down the palate.
It has been some time since Pfeiffer Wines have had a Shiraz Cabernet blend; however in 2011 we decided to make a blend, our Wine Club Only 2011 Pfeiffer Winemakers Selection Shiraz Cabernet. This blend is made from Heathcote fruit, which again is different. We have poured the wine at our Sunday lunches this year and it has proved very popular, which is terrific for Jen and I. It has a lovely vibrant colour with an elegant rich flavoured palate and has the potential to further develop over a ten year period. We did not bottle a large quantity, so if you enjoy it and want more, you will need to act.
2014 is another milestone for Pfeiffer Wines, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the winery. A number of events will be occurring; including the Taste Of Rutherglen dinners (see the events section). We are hoping for a great vintage so that we may have an opportunity to make a very special wine, which is the challenge for Jen and me; however we need that perfect vintage.
Enjoy our selection in your Wine Club packs. There are some museum releases in the packs which show the complexity that can develop when you are patient.
We are looking forward to a great 2014 with our anniversary and I take the opportunity to wish you a wonderful and happy 2014.
In vino veritas,