Making wine, the d'Arenberg way.
Chester works with individual parcels of fruit that display different flavour profiles that are influenced by the unique soil characteristics and meso climates of our vineyards. Each parcel is picked and vinified separately to highlight the individual characters that contribute complexity to the final blend. Chester assumes dual roles as chief wine maker and viticulturist at d’Arenberg. He spends a great deal of his time in the vineyards prior to harvest sampling grapes to determine ripeness and flavour intensity. This in part explains his exceptional wine making talent of understanding the characteristics of each individual vineyard. Chester likens his wine making process to the art of sculpture; a very hands on-on process that requires an intimate knowledge and feel for your raw materials before you are able to express your artistic vision.
Chester’s philosophy is to make wines that have great fragrance, fruit palate texture and length. The finish of the wine must have a natural, fine balance of acidity and a complex structure of tannins. "I aim to make loudest, most flowery fragrant and most fruit-flavoured wines that have great palate texture and are free of excess oak. I look for tannins that are long, lively, gritty and youthful with fragrant fruit-mineral notes. It is my aim to never make a wine that looks sterile, like some other reputable wineries produce. I want to see it all my wines; I want a wine that has edges of all sorts of complexities such as spices, meats, compost and forest floors etc…"
"Our other focus is to make a wine that is not going to go too earthy or bitumen - tarry with age. Some producers make wines that have oodles of fruit; they’re ripe, rich and gutsy, but in a few years these wines may show inherent problems from their production. That is fat, blousy, and chocolate and tar with short palate life. This is also the opposite of what we aim to produce."
Age-old winemaking techniques
At d’Arenberg we handcraft all our wines and press them in wooden baskets using the very gentle, traditional ‘Coq’ and ‘Bromley & Tregoning’ presses, for both reds and whites. The presses are both old soldiers, dating from approximately 1860, and then we had the original ‘Coq’ press replicated in 1940, because we liked its gentle action so much.
The main job of the wine press is to get juice, or fermented wine, from the grape skins and pulp. For white wines, this happens before fermentation (so the more delicate whites do not pick up any colour or phenolics from the skins) and for the reds, after fermentation, so that the action of the ferment and the alcohol has extracted the good tannins and flavour profiles from the skins.
Basket pressing all of our wines makes for a very labour-intensive exercise, but the quality of results justifies this for us. The pressing action is very controlled and is extremely gentle. We have also used our collective imaginations here in coming up with a way to make basket pressing oxygen free, thereby preventing oxidation in our whites. This is achieved by using a big plastic bag and some dry ice, which encases the whole basket.
d’Arenberg is unique in that it is the only winery in Australia to use this age-old basket press method for white wines as well as reds. Chester believes that one of the advantages of basket pressing is cleaner juice, as it is partially filtered through the mass of pulp it drains through in the basket. This saves time in settling and clearing the juice, and brings the procedure much closer to how we like things – minimal interference which enables us to preserve quality. All our wines feature the foot trod/basket pressed logo as a 'badge of honour' for the hard work that goes into producing our wonderful wines.
There have been jokes that maybe a cellar hand would get the logo branded on his enlarged calf muscles after a long vintage of foot treading!