May At Curly Flat
STORY BY RICHARD CORNISH
After the busy harvest and demands of vintage, a veil of a contemplative calm has gently descended over Curly Flat, a small winery near Lancefield. “This is the time of year for reflection,” says winemaker Matt Harrop. He’s been here for 18 months now. Before that he was at Shadowfax, making wine from vineyards across the state. Now he lives a few minutes away from the vineyard and feels every frost and every northerly wind. “May is a time working out what we did right and what we did wrong,” says Matt matter of factly.
What Matt and his team did do was to take a considerable risk in late spring last year. “We suspected that it was going to be a dry season so, after fruit set, we removed whole bunches of grapes,” says Matt. “We are already a low cropping vineyard – we remove two-thirds of the cordons (new tendrils) before they flower,” says Matt. “Quality always overrides quantity at Curly Flat.” Matt’s hunch proved right. The rain didn’t come, and the vines produced exceptional fruit with the limited water they had.
Pinot noir makes up 75% of the production at Curly Flat. The 2019 pinot noir is now quietly going through malolactic fermentation in French oak barrels. Lots of oak barrels. Depending on where on the vineyard the grapes were harvested and when the vines were planted the vintage has been divided into 22 different fermentations. “There are really seven or eight different vineyards here depending on the different soil types,” says Matt. His favourite part of the vineyard is a patch of white sandy soil that dates back 450 million years to the Ordovician period. The wines from the vines growing here are soft and aromatic.
Assemblage of the 2018 vintage will start soon, and Matt has plans to bottle different wines from different parts of the vineyard. “The vines growing in the volcanic soil, in the cooler parts of the vineyard, are making lovely supple wines,” says Matt, “While the older vines, the ones dating back 28 years or so are producing wines with tannin and muscle.” Matt is also focusing on the traditional Curly Flat pinot noir that the winery is famous for.
The other 20% of Curly Flat wine is chardonnay and 5% pinot gris. Like all the wines at Curly Flat, the chardonnay is made with hand-picked grapes, the bunches pressed whole and the juice fermented in French oak barriques using the yeasts naturally occurring on the grapes and in the winery. “Indigenous ferment is the least predictable,” says Matt. “But it is so satisfying. I will leave the whites on their lees until next year. It adds shape and texture to the wine. Come February or March I’ll bottle them."
One of the winery dogs comes up all wagging tail and tongue hanging out the corner of his mouth. Matt looks out the doors of the winery across the lake. The leaves have turned deep yellow, and the trunks of the vines are now visible. Winter is coming. "We start pruning soon," says Matt. "And then it starts again."
Curly Flat, 263 Collivers Rd, Lancefield; Cellar Door Sat-Sun 12pm-5pm (weekdays by appointment), curlyflat.com