Way, way back in 2006 we had a fun idea….Let’s have a play around with the traditional Italian method known as ‘Amarone’ on our own vineyard. We have long loved the work of Primo Estate– with their Joseph ‘Moda’ Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the many examples from Italy, so we thought we would have a little go ourselves.
What is involved in this method, ‘Amarone’, I hear you ask? In Italy, particularly in the region of Valpolicella, often indigenous varieties of grapes are picked at their optimum ripeness, then left to dry on racks or straw mats. This process is known as appassimento (to dry & shrivel). Essentially, the moisture inside the berry in the form of water is evaporated, and they start to concentrate in flavour and shrivel.
In 2006, we decided to use this process, but instead of drying the grapes on racks, we cut a percentage of the canes that the Cabernet bunches were attached to on the vines. We left them to hang there for 2 weeks to shrivel, while the uncut bunches were happily continuing to ripen. We then picked both the dried and non-dried portions together, and fermented them. This turned out to be a great wine- concentrated, and full of a very different tannin structure than we usually expect. The 2006 Vine-dried Cabernet sold out very quickly- and had many fans coming back for more! We still get asked about once a week now if we have any left!!
Mother nature conspired against us over the next few years, and we didn’t play around with making any Amarone style until 2013. We had finally had enough of everyone asking us for the 2006, and decided that we would have a crack again. This time, although we have still called the wine ‘vine-dried’, we went closer to the traditional method this time.
We picked a portion of the grapes, and dried them under-cover on racks. Granted the racks weren’t lovely rustic Italian ones, but plastic perforated fruit trays- but we were on the same wavelength! We dried this portion (ended up being around 25% of the ferment) for around 2 weeks, then picked the fresh Cabernet from the vine, popped them all into the fermenter, and held our breath.
We were very happy again with the resultant wine. It has a very interesting cherry character, and loads of star anise and spice. Perhaps not your typical Cabernet Sauvignon descriptors, but they are very intriguing. The tannins are also very soft and chalky, leaving your palate refreshed and wanting more!
The 2013 Vine Dried Cabernet was only made in a very small batch, so get in quick. We look forward to hearing your comments and hope that it goes some way to satiating the demands of the 2006 Vine-dried Cabernet lovers amongst you. Mike Bennie from WBM Magazine has given the 2013 Vine-Dried Cabernet 93 points saying, “….smells potently of rich stewed fruits, figs and dates, warm Xmas pudding. Generous and ripe in character with a flourish of thick, chewy tannins. Balanced in its amplitude.”