We are fortunate enough in Tasmania to be able to produce fruit that is packed with flavour and has wonderful natural acidity. The acidity is an important attribute in our wines as it gives lightness and balance. We try to build texture and flavour around this wonderful natural asset. We take an increasingly minimalist approach to our winemaking, converting to natural fermentation and reducing the amount of additives and finings used in our wines.
Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Arneis
Tasmanian whites have beautiful fruit purity and acid structure and our aim with these varieties is to express these characters as best we can. At Holm Oak we have two different clones of Sauvignon Blanc, one of which is grassier and another that tends to show more passionfruit. We ferment these two parcels of fruit separately with two different yeast strains specifically selected to enhance these characters. The same applies to our Riesling where we have three clones, one minerally, one aromatic, and one with a bit of both.
With the Arneis we take a slightly different approach, and as we are trying to make a more savoury, textural wine with this, we do all natural ferment, with about 70% taking place in tank and 30% in oak.
The Tamar Valley produces some stunning Chardonnay fruit which has some generosity on the palate, but still retains beautifully balanced acidity. We whole bunch press our Chardonnay and the free run juice is transferred directly to barrel to undergo natural fermentation. We use about 20% new oak in our Chardonnay. A portion of the wine then undergoes malolactic fermentation, the exact percentage of which is season dependent. Lees stirring is conducted regularly and the wine is bottled about 10 months after harvest. We have only been making barrel-fermented Chardonnay at Holm Oak since 2010 and we are very excited with the results we are getting. At the moment we are conducting a lot of trial work with different coopers to see which oak best suits our fruit.
How we make our Pinot Noir depends on vintage conditions and the resultant fruit quality. It also depends a bit on how we are feeling at the time and what exciting trials we are conducting in any particular year. With Pinot you need to use your experience and intuition to be able to make a great wine, as the same thing won’t work every year. This is what makes making Pinot Noir so much fun (and also so frustrating!). However, we do tend to follow a general plan to ensure a consistent style as much as possible.
Most fruit is de-stemmed prior to fermentation. We do however do a few batches of 20% whole bunch fermentation so that the final wine contains about 5% whole bunch. The crushed fruit is allowed to soak at ambient temperature for approximately 4 days before being inoculated or for as long as it takes for a wild ferment to start. 80% of the fruit is wild fermented; the remaining 20% is inoculated with two different yeast strains. The fruit is fermented in 1.5 tonne open fermenters and hand plunged up to five times a day. Approximately 5% of the final wine is drained off skins at 4 – 6 Baume for barrel fermentation to increase palate complexity and silkiness. We generally don’t do any post fermentation maceration. The fruit is then pressed in an air bag press or basket press straight to barrel where it goes through malo before being racked and returned to barrel for maturation for about 9 months. We use around 20% - 25% new French oak with the remainder being 1 – 4 year old French oak. We tend to use quite tight grained, light to medium toast oak in our wine to give it more shape, texture and structure. The wine is egg fined and then filtered before bottling.
We have quite a few new clones planted that are only just starting to produce fruit for us. We will probably start playing around with more whole bunch ferments in the coming years.
Cabernet and Merlot
Our philosophy with the Bordeaux varieties is to extract as much fruit character as possible, without extracting too much of the 'greener' tannins that can be a problem in cooler climates. Our Cabernet and Merlot are fermented in small open fermenters and hand plunged. We inoculate all ferments to get things happening quickly. We then work the cap hard while the alcohol level in the wine is low, until about half the sugar has been fermented. This extracts as much colour and fruit flavour as possible. Following this, we taper off the plunging as the ferment finishes. The wines are pressed to barrel or tank depending on the product allocation.
The cabernet for our straight varietal Cabernet Sauvignon is matured in 20% new oak and 80% 1 – 4 year old oak for 15 months prior to being bottled; whereas the more fruit driven Cabernet Merlot style is matured in 50% older oak and 50% stainless steel for 9 months.