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Quality’s cemented in

Jane Brook has returned to the winemaking days of the past by employing concrete open fermenters to make a huge Swan Valley shiraz from vines planted in 1945.

The open fermenters date back to when the vines were first planted and chief winemaker Julie White has used them in the time-honoured method to vinify a 1999 Back Block shiraz.

The walls and floor of the fermenters are heat fired with wax before each vintage.

This inert wax stops the wine coming into contact with the concrete and seals the interior to make it liquid proof.

It’s very “hands on” winemaking. Included in the cap, which in wine-speak describes the mass of grape solids that float on top of the juice, are the grape skins that provide the colour and some tannins to the wine.

The last thing the winemaker needs is this cap sitting above the wine and not contributing fully to colour, tannins and flavours.

So Julie floats a timber header-board and hand plunges the cap into the juice constantly to extract the deep purple/red colour and rich flavours.

Some of the shiraz was fermented in modern stainless steel fermenters which give the winemaker a great deal more control before being blended with the shiraz from the open fermenters – marrying new technology with old.

There are many vineyard patches throughout the Swan with mature vines that almost qualify for a senior’s card.

The Back Block vines are a gnarled 55-years-old and are renowned for richness.

The fruit for this inaugural Back Block shiraz came from the 1999 vintage which is one of the best the Swan has seen for many a year.

A harvest that had enjoyed mellow, cool days, adequate summation and cool nights.

With such kindness from Mother Nature, it was a record vintage at Jane Brook for both quality and quantity.

Picked well and truly ripe at 13.8 degrees beaume, the shiraz from the Back Block went into the winery with robust characteristics and this muscle tone has followed through the wine-making process with big, back berry and licorice flavours among the spiciness.

American oak was used to tame and build structure in this red in which it went through a malolactic fermentation after its initial ferment to soften the wine off.

Later, eight months in oak prepared it for bottling. A big alcohol wine, it stands at 14 per cent by volume.

You will find something of a camel hump in the middle palate of rich fruit and oak that holds your attention and compensates for a stubby palate. Cook some ox-tail soup or a mighty beef stew to enjoy with a young wine from old vines.

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