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For Oak's Sake!

It's finally happening. It's only taken 13 years, but today the fruits of our grand experiment are being labelled.

When we originally embarked on this whole winemaking venture, we were stepping out into the unknown. Imagine, if you will, that you love your wine and you're intrigued enough to want to make the stuff. You plant a vineyard, you grow some grapes, and now you have some grape juice that you want to turn into wine. Now what?

it's standard practice to use oak... but what does it actually do?

Wine has been made for thousands of years. In principle it's pretty easy—ferment some grape juice and you have wine. But how to make good wine? And what is good wine, anyway? Having delivered the wine to the winery for processing, you are immediately confronted with a seemingly infinite number of pathways to the bottle. De-stemmed bunches of grapes or whole bunches? How long to leave on skins? What yeast to use? Do you want a slow ferment or fast... colour... aromatics? And will you use oak?

Most red wines and some whites are stored in oak for a period, so yes... oak it is. And this has some sort of impact on the wine, right? At well over $1000 per 300 litre barrel, it better! It's standard practice to use oak in the wine industry, but what does it actually do? And which Oak... what form and how much should it be toasted?!

These are are all the questions we faced as we embarked on our first vintage. And in a display of pre-Turnbullistic brilliance we thought we'd delegate that determination to the public. Yes, you get to vote on the suitability of the union between wine and oak of various persuasions. So 13 years ago we took identical portions of our 2004 merlot and placed them in five distinct barrels for 15 months. These were all new oak 300 litre barrels: an American oak, a Hungarian oak; a Nevers (coarse grain) French oak; a Troncais (tight grain) French oak medium toast; a Troncais medium plus toast.

The results were intriguing. Intriguing enough that we decided to spend a silly amount of time and expense bottling the individual barrels (plus one blended barrel) separately. Moreover, we used 375ml über tall Elegantissima bottles that were guaranteed to fall off the bottling line at infuriatingly regular intervals and not fit any standard wine carton. To cap it off, we opted for a white wax top... that was only available from the US.

And today, these bottles are being clad in screen printed labels... finally. This is taking place in Mount Barker, SA, as there is nowhere else that can do this type of printing for us. We then need to get these wines back to base and ready for orders. We'd love a nice cold front over the next couple of weeks to escort these wines comfortably home.

We are hoping to take some samples of one of the oaks to the upcoming Wine Heroes festival in Barangaroo, and if all goes well (with the delicate operation of getting the wines safely back into storage), we'll have the Blowfly Oak Flight series available for order in the run up to Christmas. We'll keep you posted...

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