Geelong’s Nick Farr and father Gary are inspired by Burgundy’s Domaine Dujac. Others revere the wines of Armand Rousseau
Meanwhile, Michael Hill-Smith MW, at Shaw + Smith, adds: “It’s a huge bonus to be a Pinot fanatic,” alluding to the time and attention required for successful results. As for whole bunch fermentations, he says: “In 2012 we used 15% stems to give more gravitas, not just pure fruit… It’s the new trend, but we found it really adds something, a savoury tightness.”
Inspired by his experience at Domaine Dujac, Nick Farr from Geelong’s By Farr says he matches the proportion of whole bunch to the amount of new oak, exemplifying with his Farr Rising Pinot Noir, which contains 40% of each. The high proportion of potassium in the stems does absorb acidity, he says, but this proved useful in the low-pH, wet and cool 2011 vintage.
Nevertheless, producers warn against the use of the stems which aren’t fully lignified. “They won’t go near the ferment unless they are ripe,” says Harris.
Hence, Mike Aylward at Mornington’s Ocean Eight says, “We’re not using whole bunch because our stems are green and sappy and I don’t want them in our Pinot Noir.” However, he says he gets the necessary structure from a low juice to skin ratio due to very low yields.
Interestingly, Tessa Brown, winemaker at Kooyong, explains that the lignification of stalks is independent of heat, but dependent on the number of days of ripening – hence Kooyong used them in a cooler, slower-ripening year like 2011, but not in a fast-maturing warmer vintage such as 2010.
Innocent Bystander’s Phil Sexton notes a further aspect to whole bunch fermentations, pointing out that stems are naturally reductive and aseptic, if healthy. Plus he says he is now working with stems because they release the pepper compound Rotundone which both masks and removes Cinerol – the menthol like compound you can get from gum trees (and can affect, even spoil the eventual wine if a leaf or nut from the tree ends up in the crusher or fermentation vat).