Unusual growing conditions in 2017 led to the serendipitous production of Grace Farm’s first straight Malbec.
Until then the cabernet grapes and all Grace Farm’s blending varieties – pertit verdot, cabernet franc and malbec – had been picked together and co-fermented. Now, for the first time, the malbec ripened slightly earlier and was picked on its own, separately.
“Had it ripened like it has traditionally, from 2012-2016, we never would have seen that malbec on its own as it would have been crushed with the other varieties,” says Grace Farm viticulturist Tim Quinlan.
Like other small producers, Grace Farm usually co-ferments its red grapes. They are picked together and crushed into the same tank. Wineries with bigger production have the luxury of having all the blending varieties in large quantities, so they can build multiple blends, whereas Grace Farm only has a few hundred vines of each.
A flexible approach to the viticulture and winemaking has paid off. The single-vineyard Malbec may have been unplanned, but it turns out to be one of the finest wines to have emerged from Grace Farm. It shows refined flavours of black cherry and spice complemented by a wonderful violet aroma.
The good news is that in 2018 there was an exceptional quantity of malbec, so it was picked in two sessions. The first pick was co-fermented with the cabernet, petit verdot and cabernet franc, while the second pick was destined for a second straight malbec. In addition to the Malbec, a Cabernet Malbec will be bottled for the first time, as well as the Cabernet Sauvignon reserve.
“Slight shifts in the micro-climate and season can have a big impact on the grapes,” explains Tim. “Spring weather and temperature can really affect the timing of budburst and the amount of fruit on a vine.”
In 2019 there will not be enough fruit to make malbec. Leading up to vintage there are fewer bunches and fewer berries. So if you want to sample Grace Farm’s 2017 Malbec, get in early...