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We love heat in the vineyard. But in the winery… not so much.

Cool temperatures are great to develop fruity flavours when you ferment a wine such as Sauvignon Blanc. That is why you’d often see on a tasting note that the wine was “cool fermented”. By keeping the ferment cool, we can control the metabolic rate of the yeast, thereby influencing how it converts sugar into alcohol and also what flavours are enhanced in the process.

Of course, keeping the wine cool after fermentation helps to lock in the flavours.

Because cooling is so important in winemaking, our Marlborough winery was especially designed with this in mind. Louvres open at night to allow cool air in, and are closed when day temperatures rise to keep the cool air inside. Having a smaller differential between the ambient temperature and the desired temperature of the wine means we need to use less energy.

There is one exception to this chilled-out approach: To start fermentation, we often need to warm up the juice a bit, so the yeast can get going.

Rather than spend a lot of energy to generate heat, we use technology to recover the latent heat released by our usual refrigeration processes, and use that for heating. In effect, the same energy that is already used for cooling some tanks is used to heat others! Pretty neat.

It’s time to give back. With another harvest safely in the winery, one can’t help but be in awe of the natural bounty we receive. So, in the slight lull before we need to get back into the vineyard for pruning, we’re devoting our energies to giving back to nature, by attending to the land around our vineyard blocks.

One of the places we can give nature a helping hand is in the streams bordering the vineyards. The aptly named Boundary Stream in Marlborough, for instance, can get a bit clogged up by gravel washing down from the high country in times of heavy rain. So, we go in there and scoop out enough of the gravel to allow the stream to flow through to the Wairau River unhindered.

Keeping the river to its natural channel and flowing deep enough not only protects our vineyard from potential flooding, but it also helps aquatic life to thrive. Fishes and frogs need to live too.

And what do we do with the gravel?

In true Babich fashion, we don’t want anything to go to waste. So, we use it to pave our vineyard roads!

We’ve all seen the video clips of someone celebrating their victory before they’ve crossed the finish line and then being pipped at the post. That won’t happen with Babich.

Even in a year when we know we’ve done everything as best we can – we’ve created the best possible conditions for our vines to produce excellent grapes and the vineyard is packed with the most luscious fruit – we keep going at it hard until every grape is in the winery. The last thing we want to do, is to undo a year’s hard work in the home stretch.

That’s why harvest is such an intense time for us. We need to get the fruit into the winery at just the right time, when they’re as ripe and flavourful and healthy as they can be. That might mean that we need to get heaps done in a short time frame. For our team, it means early starts and late finishes, day after day for about three weeks. Nature does not take weekends off.

When the last grapes were brought into our Marlborough winery, there were some tired minds and bodies, but also a great sense of satisfaction.

“We want to get the outstanding quality that is in the vineyard into the winery,” says winemaker Adam Hazeldine, “so that we can put it into the bottle for people to enjoy.”

 

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