A telling feature of Rockcliffe winery is that enthusiasm, like grapes, is harvested. And so it was that assistant winemaker Antony Paume came to produce a new wine – Rockcliffe 2018 Fumé Blanc.
Monsieur Paume studied winemaking in France and 10 years ago worked in the illustrious Chateau d’Yquem in Sauternes and learned under celebrated winemaker, Sandrine Garbay.
He wished to augment Rockcliffe’s sauvignon blanc by utilising another winemaking method known as fumé. Rockcliffe winery owner Dr Steve Hall agreed to a trial.
“The idea was to do more open fermentation with skin contact with the sauvignon blanc to get more quality from the grapes,” Monsieur Paume said.
So promising were the first results, that the winery agreed to offer it for sale this year. After the wine was barrelled for a total of four months, it was bottled and released in September.
Monsieur Paume strove to imbue the sauvignon blanc with oaky characteristics, and he carefully balanced acidity levels and the length of skin contact. “I didn’t want too many tannins,” he said.
Significantly, all the grapes came from Rockcliffe’s vineyard in Denmark, 420km south of Perth.
Monsieur Paume was grateful for the experience in an industry that relies on same, and he recalled one of his favourites from 2008 when he was at Chateau d’Yquem which makes white wine with 80 per cent semillon and 20 per cent sauvignon blanc grapes.
A customer had two bottles of expensive 1937 vintages that required rebottling. The corks were in particularly poor condition. Carefully, the bottles were opened and the contents were filtered into new containers to make one-and-a-half bottles before relabelling to show the original vintage and rebottling in 2008.
However, there was a little left over, and the customer allowed Monsieur Paume and some of his colleagues to drink it. “We each had a taste,” he said. “The wine was just amazing, one of the biggest experiences in my life.”
- Rockcliffe 2018 Fumé Blanc costs $35.