Hands up who has children? Hands up who is constantly astounded by the diametrically opposed character traits found in offspring born from the same parents?
We are those parents. The personalities of our children, Will and Max, are so uniquely different that we often wonder how we managed to create two such different children. But we love and celebrate their differences. And a few years ago, when we were experimenting with whole-bunch ferments of two pinot noir clones, the similarities between the genetic material of wine grapes and the human species were not lost on us. So we decided to name the resulting two distinctively different wines after our boys, Will and Max.
But before naming the wines, in 2013, we carried out a few whole-bunch-ferment trials with two different clones of pinot noir to see what alchemy would come about. It was the first year we had a decent crop off six-year-old 115 clone vines. We had tried 100% whole-bunch ferments before but without much success. In one of our previous attempts with these ferments, we managed to make compost – Tim burnt his feet “foot-treading” it because it had reached 50°C in the middle of the ferment!
But when we get knocked down, we get up again. After seeking counsel from winemaker friends, we decided to have another go. Thankfully, the vinous stars aligned and we were successful. We found ourselves with one barrel each of the two different clones. The wines were treated exactly the same way, with the same production methods, but they’ve resulted in wildly different drops – a bit like our two sons. Same genetic material – two distinct results.
We considered blending these two barrels of wine into other Holm Oak wines, but they tasted so unlike anything we’d produced previously that we threw caution to the wind and bottled them separately as individual wines. Given their similarities in character traits to our children, we referred to the wines as Will and Max throughout the winemaking process, but in an effort to reflect the wines’ authentic character traits in a more expressive way, we named them The Perfectionist and The Menace.
Max, our first child, is so set on every single detail being perfectly correct that we labelled his wine The Perfectionist. Our second child, Will, is a wild boy who gets away with behaving badly due, in part, to his cheeky grin. His label is The Menace.
A friend of ours (JL or Jason Lawrence) illustrated the labels for us, and we absolutely love the individual characters. Both wines sold out quickly, with it being hard to name a favourite child out of the two distinctive wines!
Recent incarnations of The Menace and The Perfectionist
In 2020, we decided to bring back the label but with a bit of a twist. Like our children, we (Tim, the viticulturalist and I, the winemaker) have different traits and personalities. So, we’ve taken control of our own blends to make two small-batch wines, free from some of the constraints we’d normally put in place for the style of our Holm Oak wines. Both of these wines are still 100% whole-bunch ferments, but one is a merlot and one is a syrah (or a shiraz made in a more European style).
Tim and Will are The Menace and the merlot is their label, with a bit of mischief thrown in, of course. The story of this release is that in late 2018, after everything had had its end-of-vintage clean and was packed away, Tim decided to pick the merlot that was left behind after the machine harvester had gone through.
I refused to dirty the de-stemmer again, so Tim foot-trod the grapes and made the small parcel of fruit into an intriguing wine. Merlot is generally not a variety you would whole-bunch press (and certainly not from a cool climate!), but it was a warm year, and Tim got lucky – the wine turned out particularly well.
We left it in barrel for almost two years to let the tannins soften and integrate before bottling the wine, unfined and unfiltered. This is a really complex yet opulent and elegant style of merlot. Due to the fermentation technique and barrel maturation, it is quite a savoury wine, but still has the characteristic plum and spice characters of merlot. Just like Tim and Will, it’s a little bold and will grow on you!
The Perfectionist is named after me (Bec) and Max. I wanted to experiment a little and bring a little bit more weight, spice and complexity to the Holm Oak Shiraz, which has only been growing at Holm Oak for only around six years. I thought that some whole-bunch ferment added to the wine made from de-stemmed fruit might help achieve this.
However, the result also surprised me, and we decided to bottle this as an individual wine, too. We’ve called this wine a syrah rather than a shiraz, as it is more in the medium-weight, spicy style grown in Hermitage in France. It has lifted raspberry, violet and peppercorn characters on the nose, while the palate is finely structured with juicy acidity. Perfection!
2018 The Menace Merlot and 2019 The Perfectionist Syrah are sold out now.
A first for Holm Oak – The Menace Shiraz Pinot Noir
The Menace returns, but with a different incarnation, this wine is definitely worth seeking out and trying. The 2020 vintage was a cool one, with great aromatics and flavour intensity in the small parcels of shiraz. Blending it with our elegant, perfumed pinot noir, which rounds out the palate weight, has created a match made in heaven.
This 2020 Menace Shiraz Pinot Noir is a medium-bodied wine with intense cherry cola, chocolate, liquorice and peppered spice notes on the nose. The palate displays fine tannins and great mid-palate richness and finishes with a savoury note. It’s an even blend of 50% shiraz and 50% pinot noir.
The fruit wasn’t quite right for a 2020 The Perfectionist, but I have a small, one-barrel parcel from 2021 that I will bottle, label and release later this year. Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy the 2020 Menace.