Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Split Personality! Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and My Social Media Journey

I am developing a split personality. I am not quite sure where this blog is heading. It started out as a way to track our wines through the year after harvest, but it seems more of a Social Media commentary each time I post to it!

Each day I am amazed how much there is to learn about social media and story-telling, and the communication vehicles that are available. Today I just watched the launch video for Google Wave, and the technological advances were mind-boggling. How I put that together with my small steps in Twitter and Facebook I'm not sure yet. What I do know is that all this stuff is converging , and it will get easier day-by-day for the user to communicate with people interested in their products (in our case, wines obviously). I am also learning that there are good and bad ways to use these tools. I guess the single most important learning is that one cannot use these media to 'push' your product at people. There is no better way to turn them off. But, if you can share valuable and credible information with the internet community, the folk who like what they see will contact you. People often say that social media takes too much time. My view is that the the 'time' bit is correct, but not the 'too' bit! Who would not want to talk directly with their customers? There is no doubt we are getting tour booking and winery sales from these initiatives. Not a lot, but growing slowly. Just as important are the on-line relationships I now have with wine lovers all around the world. We share information about our wines, other wines, images, experiences and our locations. It brings us closer together in a relationship that certainly has a commercial element to it, but in which the commercial side follows on from a meaningful and more comprehensive relationship based on information exchanges.

On the wine side, we had a bit of a bad week last week when we had a blend of Pinot Noir all ready for bottling and the labels were a 'no-show'. Luckily we found out about that before we had pumped the wine (13,000 litres!) into the tanker for transport down to the bottling plant. So, just put a layer of protective argon on top of the wine in tank until the labels turn up. Argon is a gas that sits on top of the wine, and does not dissolve in it. The gas forms a protective layer between the wine and the air. Still a bummer to lose the bottling date. Now we need to wait until another one is available; hopefully not too long as we have export customers waiting for the wine
Went for a stroll in the vineyard to get over the stress (mine was not as bad as Winemaker Carl's though!), and cheered myself up when I saw how good the 2010 Pinot Gris, is looking -  as the image above shows. I often get asked about the differences between Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, and the answer is not a lot. The name comes from the fact the berries are not as dark as Pinot Noir. They are grey in colour, not black and Gris is simply the French word for grey; as is Grigio in Italian. That said, the berries are quite dark this year, but we will separate the skins from the juice quite quickly so the wine will still be white.

You have all read my earlier grumbles about the cool weather slowing ripening in older posts. Well the last week has been great with a warm, dry start to autumn, which just as well as we are seeing colour changes in the poplars now. The grapes won't be far behind. Every warm day is a big plus. In the winery we are setting up the equipment ready to handle the harvest; destemmer, ferments, tanks, etc, so the excitement for crush 2010 is building!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Time to learn a new word? Try Veraison!

This is what we have been hanging out for, veraison. Which is what?? Well read on: There are many European words that have been adopted by New World winemakers often because one French or German word can replace a sequence of English ones. VĂ©raison is no exception: it is a wine-making term meaning "the onset of ripening". It is originally French, and the official definition of veraison is "change of color of the grape berries." Veraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many important changes occur in berry development occur at this time.

The accompanying image shows what I mean, so berries are still green, other partially coloured and some quite dark. What we want now is warm weather for a couple of weeks to ripen all the berries fully. It is this phase of development that gives the sugar levels and flavours we need, while the acidity drops and the seeds mature. It is this ripening which makes grapes so attractive to birds, and requires the nets we talked about in the last posting to keep them away!
This year we are very late in reaching veraison and so are keeping everything crossed for fine weather over the next month, leading into harvest. We have a winemaker from France joining us this year for vintage, so I will have even more French lessons for you all soon. 

On the social media front, we now have a Facebook page in place for Murdoch James Estate  - now to use it. Meantime have a look and tell me how you'd like it to evolve! I also recently got my first Twitter spam messages, but at the same time am getting lots of encouragement to persevere. Good feedback on the blog too, so if any readers would like a specific topic covered, let me know via the comments section