You maybe have expected the winery has been closed during this 'lockdown'. That we have put our pipettes, hoses and glasses down and will come back once it’s all returned to normal. Certainly, all the restaurants and bars that serve our wines, from Nathan Outlaws on the North coast in Doc Martin country to Wreckers and The Longstore in Charlestown near us are closed, as well as having to shutter our cellar door to visitors.
With trade orders disappearing, our wedding venue closed and most of the team on furlough we have been running on a staff of very few, mainly myself, the winemaker here at Knightor. It may appear at times the winery is closed but we are still at work, even during this time of lockdown. For us, nothing stops after harvest. Not even for a lockdown.
The vines must continue to be cared for, our wine making has to continue as normal as possible to ensure we don’t end up with most of our produce spoil in tank and so that we have keep up with demand on the phenomenal response we have had to online sales.
This is the time of the year when the winery is usually so full of life and activity. We would be pressing for all hours of the day, pumping the settled [clear] juice from one tank to the next, fermenting the juice. None of that has stopped, it is just perhaps happening a little slower.
For each wine we have to consider how it would be best to treat or 'age' going forward.
At Knightor we have 37 batches that are sitting maturing or 'ageing' before being bottled. Ageing allows us to capture and bottle the best of each of our wines at their optimum.
From October onwards we have wines that have just finished fermenting that must be racked [pumped] off the heavy yeast sediment [gross lees]. The time to do that is now.
At this stage all of the wines are cloudy, lively, youthful, even aggressive with a fair spritz or sparkle from the left over carbon dioxide dissolved in the wine during the ferment. They are often not really very drinkable. Many of the techniques we use to mature the wines are aimed at softening and rounding out the wines. The 3 techniques we most commonly use to help mature our wines are Lees ageing, oak contact and Malolactic fermentation.
After fermentation, all of our wines stay on contact with the dead yeast sediment or 'fine lees' as it is known. Some will stay on lees for just 4 months, others for a year or more, as very gradually this sediment starts to impact on the wine providing more weight, softness and mouthfeel. We can also help this process along by stirring the sediment up and into the wine every week or so. Bearing in mind that English wines can have a tendency for being light, a little lees contact can be beneficial.
We are fortunate at Knightor to have a decent number of oak barrels. Not only do we ferment wines in these but we can also age our wines in them. The result of ageing in oak has similarities again to Lees ageing, an increase in mouth feel, texture. Dependent on the age of the barrel and the type of oak, an increase in aromas and flavours associated with the oak, such as vanilla, spice, chocolate and coffee is achieved.
At Knightor we strive to make wines that are a reflection of the fruit, so oak is used much like you would salt and pepper, just gentle seasoning adding to the existing flavours, not dominating.
So we have stayed busy. We have been emptying the barrels of many of the white wines that have been ageing in them since fermentation and refilling them with some of our red wines. Excitingly we have also been bottling some 2019 wines!
The past few weeks, with a slimmed down bottling crew, we have bottled our Mena Hweg 2019 [our semi sweet wine] plus a Trevannion 2019 [our popular intensely aromatic blend], all whilst keeping to the 2 meter social distancing rules. Due to this, bottling speed wasn't quite what it usually is but we found a way.
The Mena hweg from 2019 is wonderfully floral, perhaps a little more edgy than the previous Menas and is extremely drinkable and versatile with food.
The Trevannion I hesitate to say could be our most delicous yet of this blend. This year, as previous, it is dominated by the aromatic pink skinned grape varieties of Siegerrebe and Schonberger which seemed to do very well despite the challenging 2019 ripening period.
Both of these wines have now been released but once again, thanks to coronavirus, in a slightly different way. As we are unable to get our labels from our printers at this time, and not wanting to hold back on release, you can purchase a bottle of our Mena Hweg 2019 and Trevannion 2019 in handwritten bottles, accompanied by a winemakers note. We love how they look and are very pleased to have them available to you at last.
And a final note from us all at Knightor, to thank you for your continued drinking during this challenging time!