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New Year: Wine Girl Part 3 - For the love of bubbles

New Year: Wine Girl Part 3 - For the love of bubbles
Lucy finds her calling making sparkling wines at Domaine Chandon in the Australian Yarra Valley.
 
Even though I am a Barossa girl, and it is one of the best wine regions in the world, I needed to get out and experience somewhere new for my third vintage. After all, the best winemakers are always those with countrywide and international experience.
 
Coupled with this need to get out of the Barossa and wanting to learn something new, I chose to find out more about Sparkling Winemaking. The obvious places in Australia are the Yarra Valley and Tasmania. And luckily after writing lots of letters and sending out my resume I was offered a place at Domaine Chandon Australia (DCA) in the beautiful Yarra Valley in Victoria. The Yarra is home to numerous famous cool climate wine producers and is a seriously trendy area for posh Melbournites to holiday for the weekend. It is only an hour away from Melbourne on the way to the mountains and famous towns such as Daylesford and Healsville pull the tourists in droves.
 
I was super excited as my twin sister was living in Melbourne so I could see her more and also that DCA is one of the most prestigious sparkling producers in Australia. This was hopefully going to be a “glamour” vintage.
 
And glamorous it was! The team was an eclectic mix of all fully qualified winemakers who had made the trek to DCA for its prestige and learning environment. They were a really fun group of people and we partied just as hard as we worked. In fact, the soundtrack to our vintage was anything by Jamiroquai....the stereo was always pumping and we generally danced our way through the day or night shift. This is a common tactic employed across the world wine industry to stay awake during 90 hour working weeks.
 
And the fun did not stop there. We also had a game played above the open fermenters. These open topped tanks were filled with Pinot Noir grapes for fermentation and we macerated the skins (on purpose!) to extract the colour and tannins by punching down the cap: a bit like mashing potatoes with a potato masher! In order to do this we had to stand on a wooden beam balanced across the tank and push down on the grapes with the industrial sized masher. The quirk being that the beam was deliberately bowed in the middle so it never lay flat across the tank’s sides. So, there was quite a talent in staying on the beam and not falling into the tank! This game progressed through vintage with the longest time on the beam winning a few bottles of the house sparkling. I did not win but had plenty of grape stained fun in the process.
 
One of my primary roles was to unload the bins of grapes from the delivery trucks and tip them into the crusher or press, to gently extract the juice to make the wine. This sounds like the least glamorous role in the winery but is only that I now, as the person in charge of a winery, that I understand the importance of this role. I was the custodian of thousands of dollars worth of fruit in the picking bin and needed to deliver it safely to the processing area. At the same time I had a bird’s eye view, from the forklift, of the quality of the fruit and could grade it accordingly and report back to the other winemakers. So for a young winemaker this was an ideal role and one that I am so thankful to have had. In fact, the whole vintage experience of simply divine quality grapes has laft me with exacting standards everywhere else that I have worked. You can’t make good wine from bad grapes they say and it is correct.
 
DCA was such a brilliant experience, not the least for the sheer fun of the vintage, that I fell in love with sparkling winemaking and have pursued this dream ever since. Of course now I appreciate the technical skill involved but still yearn for those frivolities of my first sparkling vintage.

 
 

 

 

 

 
 
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