Winery in Beverford
By the early 1950s, having established the business on a solid foundation and supplementing Rutherglen non-irrigated fruit with irrigated fruit from Swan Hill, Reg commenced to build the winery at Beverford based on a gentlemen’s agreement with one of his clients in Melbourne.
The agreement was that they would pay in advance for wine and brandy spirit, supplying the necessary cash flow for Reg to commence the building of the winery and distillery. Needless to say that there were obstacles that had to be overcome.
The timber roof trusses for example, had to be lifted into place and there was not a crane in the area capable of doing the job. Reg, together with his winemaker, Bob Guy, both with naval backgrounds, did the job by stepping a mast and, with block and tackle, hoisted the trusses into place.
Another example of the nature of how business was done in those days was, with vintage drawing ever closer, Reg wasn’t going to have the distillery ready in time to make Spirit to fortify the Sherry and Port that had to be supplied as part of the original agreement. He was in a bind.
Then along came Mr Bill Seppelt and his wine maker Woody Woodroff, from Rutherglen, who knew Reg well. Introductions and inspections of the new winery done, Reg explained his predicament.
To his great surprise, and probable relief, Mr Sepppelt suggested that Woody might like to supply what ever spirit Reg required to get through this vintage and to replace it when he managed to get the distillery finished and up and running.
Ultimately, the Sherry and Port were delivered and Seppelts received the spirit owed to them.
Both the building of the winery and the “loan of spirit” were all agreed to with a ‘gentleman’s handshake’, not contracts, no lawyers, just men of their word.
Interestingly, the original inter company relationship lasted until the late 1970′s and after his retirement from Seppelt’s, Woody used to help tend the gardens at R L Buller and Son Calliope winery.
With the ever increasing demand for table wine, it became necessary for changes to be made to how the processing and handling of grapes and final table wine. To this end, over the years there has been a move away from wax lined concrete tanks to stainless steel, from continuous presses to much gentler tank pressing, and so on.
Fortified wine is much more forgiving than table wine, hence the necessity for much better and tighter controls on quality, hygiene, and lab work. So the original winery, although still in tact, is now largely out of date and the distillery, due to the lack of raw material, is not being used.
Concrete Wine Fermentation Vats - Out with the old, in with the Old!
In the original winery building, we have 15 concrete vats of differing capacity that were constructed in the early 1950’s. Originally they were used either to perform a partial primary fermentation of grapes prior to being fortified with brandy spirit, or a complete ‘wild’ fermentation of white grape juice, prior to it being distilled for brandy.
Their design was based on two traditional European formats; the thick walled insulated French cuve, and the easily accessible open Portuguese lagar (used in the making of Port wine).
Before the advent of stainless steel tanks with their greater efficacy of temperature control and sanitation for table wine production, concrete vats where often a common feature in wineries where small parcels of fruit (4-6 tonnes) could be processed effectively. Temperature control was not considered paramount in the days of fortified wine production.
Fortified wine making typically required short (30-40 hour) and warm fermentation periods before its cessation with brandy. White wine production for brandy distillation was relatively crude with neutrality favoured over a wine’s fruity, aromatic and clean expression, since the character of the brandy would be imparted during the oak maturation period.
Today, our concrete vats are conversely used to ferment our best small parcels of fruit for both red table and fortified wines with the additional (and necessary)help of submersed stainless steel cooling coils that effectively regulate the temperature during the fermentation, capturing the fruit’s primary qualities.
The Vat’s insulated and open design affords two interesting benefits to premium red wine quality.
1, It allows for greater airflow across the fermentation surface (cap). Along with frequent pumping of the fermenting wine over the risen cap, it increases the ingress of oxygen which benefits both yeast vitality and the release and ‘fixing’ of the wine’s red colour.
2, The thick walls of the Vats allow for greater temperature stability for both cold soaking prior to fermentation (helping with colour extraction for light reds such as Grenache, Mourvedre and Pinot Noir), and extended post ferment maceration promoting the extraction of seed tannins and achieving an overall equilibrium of flavour, aroma and structure qualities.
Oak Barrels and Vats – In with the new, In with the Old!
Because of our unique heritage of fortified wine production we employ the use of both old and new oak cooperage to facilitate maturation of our different wine styles.
New oak wine barrels are exclusively used for our extra premium Langdon and Black Dog Creek wines which benefit from a supple and smart integration of oak seasoning together with slight evaporation and oxidation in order to elevate the wine’s net quality and complexity. The level of oak flavour extracted from a new barrel is exhaustive, in that after three or four years of use, the actual oak flavour influence is negligible.
As other wineries would normally re-shave or discard and replace these ‘old’ barrels, we allocate them into our vast (over 5000 unit) fortified wine Solera barrel programs where a barrel’s retained virtues of slight evaporation and oxidation benefit the ageing and complexity of our Muscat’s, Tokay’s , Malmsey’s and Tawny’s.
A good proportion of our fortified wine barrels are now over fifty years old which in themselves impart a unique seasoned character to new fortified wines filled into them.
First things first, a wine’s quality will always be determined in the vineyard.
All we can do during the winemaking is capture and enhance the fruit’s primary expression throughout its fermentation and subsequent maturation. This is facilitated by our rigorous in-house laboratory analysis, and lots of it.
While today we make over 100 different base wines across our portfolio every year, gone are the days when a quick spin of a hydrometer and holding a glass to the light was all that wine analysis demanded. Equally however, our winemaking philosophy is driven by what the wine tells us and not it’s analytical composition.
Grapes sampled prior to harvesting are tested for maturity aspects such as sugar and acidity, which serves to confirm what our winemaker observes and tastes in the vineyard alongside the physical maturity, quality and uniformity of the fruit.
During the critical primary fermentation, each wine batch can be analysed and tasted up to every four hours to ensure that the fermentation is progressing within the desired optimal parameters of temperature, and yeast vitality. Too hot and you ‘burn’ off the aromas. Too cold and you make the yeasts unhappy and create ‘off’ flavours and aromas. If you don’t get it right during this stage, you will lose the specific qualities in the wine you intended to retain, forever! The term “she’ll be right” is not part of our vocabulary during this time.
After fermentation, the new wines are routinely analysed every week leading to every month, which alongside frequent tasting and assessment ensure that the natural process to bottle is performed diligently and the wine’s integrity and quality harnessed.
Stainless Steel & Temperature control
The modern extension of our winery took place during the 1980’s and 90’s at the same time of the rapid commercial expansion of Australian table wine production.
A myriad of different sized insulated stainless steel tanks where installed along with a robust refrigeration system to enable effective temperature control of over three million litres of wine at any given time.
In producing our white wines, the harvesting of grapes during the cooler early mornings of vintage coupled with the immediate chilling of the grapes (< 10 degrees C) on arrival at the winery enables us to retain and control the delicate primary aromatic and flavour qualities, whether they be from Chardonnay, Semillon, or Muscat etc.
Many of our Beverford wines are also blended from numerous parcels of wine that are individually fermented and which exhibit their own particular character in any given year, based on their unique vineyard environment (terroir, if you will). Our modern wine tank infrastructure allows us to apply limitless fermentation and maturation practices in one overall controlled environment.