A Year in the Life of a Clare Valley Winemaker
Tue, 09 June 2015
In our secret little spot on the globe, we Clare Valley winemakers know that we have a truly special home. And it’s not just about the perfect climate, altitude and soil. We also get to be part of a vibrant and inclusive community. Sure, we’re not exactly the big city up here – but as Clare Valley winemakers, we certainly have our share of fun and exciting activities throughout the year. Why not come and take a stroll with us now as we meander through the calendar year of a Clare Valley winemaker?
Summer and loving it
January marks the heart of summer here in the Clare Valley. With warm days and cool nights, we couldn’t ask for better conditions across the final weeks of the growing season. The early months of the year place our burgeoning vines and pristine grapes front-and-centre in terms of importance. In grape-speak, it’s when the earlier processes of fruit-set and veraison work their finishing magic on the vintage. This is the time where our award-winning viticulturists bring the best scientific know-how to the final stages of growth, monitoring vines closely for final water, sun and canopy needs. The Clare Valley itself is a sight to behold in summer, with verdant vines groaning across the hillsides and locals meeting up at their regular haunts to chat about the upcoming harvest. Visitors adore the beauty of the green valley at this time, and artists are often found capturing the unique summer light and shade of our scenery. Then in February, we duck down to Adelaide before the harvest gets into full swing, proudly presenting our earlier-vintage wares at the Cellar Door Wine Festival.
The autumn rush
Pinpointing the perfect harvest moment for each varietal is an absolute art. Come the late summer and autumn months, all hands are on deck in order to make the most of the annual yield. In both vineyard and winery there comes a special moment when our professionals look to one another with a knowing grin and pronounce ‘It’s time.’ We like to have complete control here at Taylors, so rather than using contract harvesters, we bought our own to have on site. That means that when the grapes are ready – so are we. Harvest is the time where our commitment to maintaining the integrity of the fruit comes into its own, with extreme care being taken from vine to vat. Right towards the end, when the vintage is put to bed, we love to welcome the ‘true believers’ to the Clare Valley in May for the Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend (May 15-17 this year). Here, people can sample a special preview of the just-completed vintage – talk about fresh produce! It’s a time of celebration and enjoying the fruits of our harvest labours.
Winter for well-deserved fun
Well, not all fun. When the winemaking is well underway and vines enter leaf-fall and dormancy in June-August, you might think that it’s time for a rest at Taylors. Not exactly.
In the vineyards, the vines are now being carefully examined, pruned and prepared for the spring onset of bud burst for the next vintage. And back at the winery, some vintages are still being put through their vinicultural paces, as elements of barrelling and bottling continue for particular varietals. But maybe our favourite part of a Clare Valley winter is when the city escapees make their way here to sample the finest and freshest produce on offer. Even if heaven isn’t officially a cosy fireside chat in the Clare Valley, complete with a Taylors Cabernet Sauvignon and select local Clare delicacies – well, it sure must be close!
Springing to life
At first, the mornings aren’t quite so chilly. Then gradually as we head into September, it starts to become crystal clear that spring is on the way. As the Clare Valley begins to wake from winter, the time is perfect for locals to prepare their preserves and poultry for the Clare Valley Show in October. And it’s not just the people that are warming up. Our dormant grape vines also begin to show the first signs of life. Tiny buds that have been sitting snug in the junction of vine and leaf stems suddenly send out their new green shoots – the important process of bud break is now underway.
Our viticulturists carefully watch and analyse the varietals as they develop their new foliage. Vigour, density and colour can provide important clues about a vine’s possible needs as the year gets underway. Back at our winery – and indeed across the Clare – our oenologists take careful note of the start of fruiting and begin to dream their dreams of the perfect vintage.
A beautiful cycle
So we hope you’ve enjoyed a saunter through the activities, processes and celebrations that make up a winemaker’s year in the beautiful Clare Valley. At Taylors, we knew we were incredible lucky when we set out to make premium wines here 40-odd years ago. As you can see, it’s a calendar that revolves firmly around the vine and the wine. We look forward to seeing you up here – whether you bring your bicycle, sketch book or simply your taste buds, you can be sure that you’ll receive both a warm Clare Valley welcome and a sample of some truly special wines.