Nomads Garden Petillant Naturel 2021
NOMADS GARDEN PETILLANT NATUREL 2021
Vineyard – Eurangie Park, King Valley Grower – Richard Carson
Natural Wild Yeast Ferment – Sauvignon Blanc & Gewürztraminer Co-Ferment - No additions in the Winery – Undisgorged (Maybe lively, open over sink or outdoors!)
The Short Story of “The Cursed Wine”
'This is our first attempt at making a Pet Nat and boy did this wine test us from the start, we joked that this was the cursed wine of V21. The results fortunately are very tasty, the rich aromatics of the Gewürztraminer contrast beautifully with the refreshing clean characteristics of the Sauvignon Blanc exactly as we imagined. The path to get there though was a little more colourful than we hoped!
The Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurtz were picked from the stunning Eurangie Park vineyard right at the very top end of the King Valley. The fruit looked perfect, and the numbers were great, good job Richard! They were then pressed together and transferred to a stainless-steel tank to undergo a controlled cool steady wild yeast fermentation to be cooled down at the very end, racked and bottled under crown seal with about 10g/l of sugar to finish fermentation in bottle creating a lovely light spritz. Well..... that was the plan anyway. As I left the winery after a long day, I climbed the ladder poked my head over the top of the tank and could see the ferment had started and the wine was beginning to fizz, perfect! At this point the juice was at 22c so the wild yeast could take hold, I flipped on the cooling to bring it down to 15c overnight and headed home exhausted for some rest. Fully refreshed and ready for another day of living the dream I rolled into the winery, something was different, but I couldn’t work out what it was. Then I realized, it was the silence, the distribution pump that transfers the -7c brine around the winery to cool all the active ferments that need to be temperature controlled and is a constant whirring noise in the background over the entirety of vintage was not going.
This could be a problem I, but is most likely nothing, maybe it had simply tripped the fuse and just needs to be reset I thought, optimistically hoping for the best. As I walked over to the where the pump is housed, I walked past and put my hand on the tank that was holding the juice that was to be to be our Pet Nat, my heart sunk, it was hot! The ferment was racing I looked at the pump and soon noticed it wasn’t the quick fix I was hoping and instead was a catastrophic failure. Thinking quickly, I set up a cold-water hose to spray over the tank to try and knock the heat out of the ferment and then raced to the lab to fetch a thermometer and a density meter to read the Baume. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought, it was wild yeast ferment after all, and they don’t tend to race, not in the 6 hours I had been away anyway. It was wishful thinking maybe, and in any case turned out to be very wrong. The ferment had risen to 29c and most worryingly had dropped from 12.1 Baume to 4 Baume overnight, what was this? Some kind of rouge wild champagne yeast we had in the winery? This was a disaster, a racing ferment that needed to be controlled and stopped at a very precise moment and no cooling to do it.
At this stage I discerned there were 2 options, let it run to dryness and do my best to keep it cool with cold water over the outside of the tank and make it into a dry white wine or make a last-ditch attempt to
save it as a Pet Nat. I decided to try and save it, this option involved jamming 2 x 2000L static tanks into our refrigerated container that only just fit and decanting the ferment into them and setting the container to -10c while I worked frantically to replace the stricken distribution pump. By the time I had the pump replaced the container had managed to pull the wine down to 17c in a day and the Baume had dropped further to around 2. The container wasn’t going to do it, it wasn’t going to be able to cool it enough to pause the ferment so we could rack and bottle it. I needed to transfer it back to the original tank so the more powerful refrigeration system could do the job.
Getting the tanks out of the container was going to be a mission, it involved using a pallet jack to move them to the front of the container so the transfer hose could reach to get the wine back in the tank. I edged the tank weighing over 2T carefully to the front of the container. Easy does it, then like in slow motion it happened, the container is on a slight angle, so water used for cleaning runs to the front and runs out the drains, this slight decline meant to pallet jack and tank started to gain momentum. What was I going to do, with the drop off at the end of the container fast approaching my only chance was to lower the tank back onto the ground to stop it from going over the edge and hoping it didn’t tip over. I had no other choice, I pulled the trigger and with a bang the tank hit the ground and stopped dead, and began to tip, I learnt long ago that in these situations all you can do is step back and watch otherwise you can get seriously injured. It tipped slowly holding and looking like it wouldn’t go over and then the splash of wine inside pushed it over and with a bang it went over with a thud and tsunami of fermenting wine sloshed over the concrete, I stood in disbelief for a few seconds in shock then snapped into gear and ran for the forklift and lifted the top of the tank up until the wine stopped gushing out then slumped in the chair and took in what had just happened. This wine, it was going to be the end of me!
Once I composed myself I grabbed the pump set up for the transfer and racked what was left in the tank as best I could as it had been shaken up. Then CARERFULLY moved the second tank and racked it then switched on the cooling and got to setting up the bottling area, I knew the sugar levels would be dropping fast and we would most likely have to bottle it the next morning. I then sprayed down the spilt wine which I later learned to be about 1200L or 40% of the total volume and got to work taking care of all the other active ferments in the winery that required my attention.
I organised a small crew to be on call the next morning if we were going to be able to bottle it and got in at daybreak and collected a sample to take down to our friends at Brown Brothers to get a measurement of the sugar. It was perfect, 11g/L, right where we wanted it, the only problem was the wine was still warm, active and turbid so we wouldn’t be able to rack it cleanly as we had hoped, and it needed to be bottled ASAP. We pushed on and got to bottling, we might just pull this off this off we thought, that was until we went to apply to first crown seal and realised our supplier had accidently sent beer sized crown seals not the ones tailored for wine bottles. At this point you had to laugh, or you would cry, maybe this wine was not meant to be, how many more signs from the universe did we need before we gave up? I thought of options then called our good friend Jo from Billy Button Wines about 30 minutes away and explained the situation. The beautiful thing about the community of small winemakers in North East Victoria is we all help each other out knowing we are not in competition but a team collectively trying to lift the profile of our little known part of the winemaking world. Jo had some caps somewhere she thought but she wasn’t sure where and would have to have a look, I jumped in my car and raced up relieved to find them sitting there when I arrived, I dumped some wine and beer as a token of our appreciation and took off back to the winery to get to work bottling this cursed wine before all the sugar that was to give us our carbonation had been consumed. The rest of the day was a blur but I vividly remember sitting back at the end of it and looking at the 5 apple bins full of wine and thinking we did it, I think...
The result is our 2021 Pet Nat, straight off the bat there is more lees in the bottle than we would have liked but as for reason just described above you now know the reason why. The first pour of the wine is pretty and clean and delicate as soon as the bottle is stood back up the lees at the bottom of the bottle goes into suspension and the wine will be transformed into a cloudy more rustic wine. Personally, when
drinking it I open bottle carefully then completely decant it into another vessel or pour it out into glasses if we have enough guests. If you like cloudy wines simply enjoy your initial glasses clear and the remainder cloudy. Given the extra solids in bottle make sure to chill well before opening and open slowly, either outside or over a sink with glasses at the ready as is often the case with Pet Nats a little happy bubbling may occur.'
- Nomads Garden