From the moment of picking the grapes, rack-dried wines need special care. The grapes must be hand-picked a little earlier than the rest of the crop, selecting only the most pristine bunches without blemish or damage. Any mildew or damage to the grape can spread to other grapes during the drying process and taint the whole batch.
The grapes are then spread out on drying racks with plenty of air circulation and are monitored for around six weeks. This allows a large proportion of the water to evaporate. It is not enough evaporation to turn the grapes to raisins but leaves a higher proportion of skin to juice and a dimpled surface.
Not all years are suitable to create these rack-dried wines because of climatic variations so they are only made when conditions are right.
Clovely Estate’s winemaker Nick Pesudovs has just introduced his signature rack-dried wine ‘The Vault’, which is set to become an iconic, flagship wine for the South Burnett winery.
Nick explains that the name ‘The Vault’ was chosen because it is a very special wine and one that will ideally be locked away for at least 10 years to reveal new depth and mellowness.
“Although it can be enjoyed now, it will be a totally different wine in 10 years,” Nick explains.
“Like all quality wines for cellaring, it must be stored correctly without temperature variations. You really need a temperature-controlled wine fridge if you don’t have a cellar. It will suffer if you keep it in an Australian pantry with our changing temperatures.”
Although The Vault is made with Shiraz grapes, the rack-drying process and cellaring create something unlike any other Shiraz you’ve known.
“We make this wine in processes that are equivalent to the amarone style from Italy,” Nick says. “It’s very labour intensive and the resulting wine has great intensity and flavour, with an acidity that diminishes with cellaring.”
After cellaring, it will have a savoury cinnamon and rich fruity character that suits gamey meats, winter stews and robust flavours.
The Vault is only made in small batches and only around 600 litres of this 2019 vintage have been produced.
Nick says it’s worth investing in a wine fridge for The Vault, if you don’t already have one. Then buy a few bottles and put them away for a special moment in the future. They’ll be perfect by the time the Olympic Games comes to Brisbane in 2032!
If you want to try something similar to test whether you will enjoy the distinctive nuances of a cellared wine, Clovely’s 2014 Passito Shiraz is also made in the amarone style.
Using a similar hand-picking and rack-drying process with white grapes produces Clovely Estate’s Rack-Dried Semillon. It is equivalent to the Italian recioto style – a wine with a perfect balance of natural sweetness and acidity.
Nick says that, although many people never try it because they say they don’t like sweet wines, it does not have the cloying sweetness of some dessert wines and actually makes a perfect accompaniment to cheeses, patés and appetisers. It can also be drunk as an aperitif.
“Our Rack-Dried Semillon has a crisp Granny Smith apple freshness and balanced sweetness,” Nick says.
“When people come into our cellar door, I urge them to try it because many mistakenly reject it on the notion that it’s a ‘dessert wine’, a category which does not do it justice. It’s a complex, delicate, deliciously aromatic wine, with notes of fresh peach, orange zest, dried pear and cashew.”
Nick says that while the Rack-Dried Semillon can certainly be enjoyed with fruity-flavoured desserts like lemon meringue pie and apple crumble, there are many other occasions to make the most of its unique qualities. And a tip: not with chocolate desserts, he says. They’re too richly flavoured if you want to enjoy the subtle, fresh, slightly sweet complexity of this wine.
Clovely’s 2017 Rack-Dried Semillon can be enjoyed now but will also develop further complexity with cellaring. Definitely worth buying some for now and some for later
Clovely Estate’s founder and owner, Brett Heading, was presented with the 2020 Samuel Bassett Award, which recognises his significant contribution to the Queensland wine industry.