More used to emptying wine barrels than filling them, David Pike continues his work experience at Devils Lair, and checks on the area’s reds.

WITHOUT neglecting my cleaning duties, I have managed to find time to add a few new skills to my ever-expanding vintage CV. I am now fully trained in the art of preparing barrels for their impending fill of wine red or white.

I am now also fully skilled in the art of filling barrels (as opposed to just emptying them). You may think that you can simply bung in the hose and start pumping away like you do at service station. And you would be right, except for the fact that you must pay close attention as to not overfill the barrel.

You can’t simply select $40.00 and wait for it to stop pumping. I should know as, for most of this week, I have been filling and overfilling new and old barrels with various batches of red wine.

The problems of overfilling takes on a new meaning as day turns to night and you are guided only by torchlight and a strange feeling of déjà vu.

“I think I’ve already filled that barrel,” you tell yourself, just as a fountain of red launches itself upward into your face.

Many of the wineries in Margaret River will have finished taking their reds’ fruit off the vine by the end of this week, although a few varieties, such as petit verdot and cabernet franc, are taking their time ripening. Wineries further down towards Karridale might take another week or two to get desired results. Many are already predicting an exceptional vintage for Margaret River, but I think a better indication will be drawn in a few weeks after the reds have gone through fermentations.

This will give a better overview of flavours and basic structure of the wines.

There is no doubt that many are talking up the prospects of a very good vintage. It is often hard to get someone to admit they’ve had a pretty ordinary year for shiraz or semillon. Even if the vineyard was flooded and red berries were still green, I suspect that some would simply describe the vintage as ‘difficult with some encouraging results’. However, at the moment, this year looks like being pretty good, with good acids, tannins and fruit flavours.

Another chapter has been written in the life and times of Rosabrook Vineyard just south of Margaret River. As reported in WA Business News last week, Rosabrook has been sold within a year of being purchased by Palandri. Before its sale to Palandri, Rosabrook was just starting to produce some very exciting wines and had gained a very loyal following especially for its shiraz. At the time of the sale to Palandri, Rosabrook was developing a solid reputation.

The original sale price to Palandri of around $2.8 million was exaggerated at the time and, if speculation of the current sale price of $2.2 million is confirmed, industry sources estimate the latest deal to be overpriced by about $500,000.

The property is around 80 acres with 50 acres under vine. Expansion prospects are limited, primarily due to the nature of the soil running through the property’s unplanted areas.

In its favour, Rosabrook is situated in a growth area, as expansion of the Margaret River community continues south along the Bussell Highway corridor. Palandri’s purchase and sale of Rosabrook has quietly destroyed one of the boutique labels scattered throughout the Margaret River region. Within the harsh corporate world there is no time for sentimentality and I believe Margaret River is only just beginning to see the reality – the region is no longer sacred and does not provide opportunities for only the original, founding wineries.

There are more mergers, acquisitions and outright failures of wineries and vineyards just around the corner, providing some of the serious players with opportunities to further gain market share, and some of the ‘global’ companies to venture into the region at a sensible price.

One of the benefits of being down here in wine country is the opportunity to taste. While some of you might call it drinking, I still prefer to say taste.

Cape Mentelle 2000 Shiraz rrp $29.99 rating 18.5/20

The vines that produce the fruit for this wine range from 13 years through to 26 years, and that vine age is really playing a part. You don’t see massive amounts of new oak hiding the fruit.

Sweet and savory flavours pull you into this wine with touches of wild plums, black cherries and hints of chocolate. The palate returns plenty of favours for those who have got hold of this wine. Rich, ripe and fleshy flavours with damsons, some spice, artful oak integration with dusty tannins and plenty of length.

At 14.9 per cent alchohol you do find a little heat, but it doesn’t detract from the wine. A serious drink that, with careful cellaring, should be drinking well into the middle of this decade.

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