Since visiting Mollydooker, I have been trying to come to grips with how I would describe the experience that is Mollydooker. If I had to describe it in one word it would be “different”! From the moment you meet Sparky where he offers his left hand to shake you know things are going to be different……
Sarah & Sparky have a long history of producing high quality wines from McLaren Vale and during this time (plus Sparky’s thesis) they have developed systems to produce these wines. The 2 systems are Marquis Vineyard Watering Program and Marquis Fruit Weight. Both of these systems are under trade mark.
The Marquis Vineyard Watering Program is a methodology where watering is controlled to allow the vines to put their energy into vegetative growth and then when watering stops the vine can concentrate on grape berry flavor development. What does all this mean, I hear you ask? Watering late in vintage will initially dilute sugars but then allows the vines to then increase flavor. As the flavor increases then it allows sugars to increase as well ie it is cyclic. How do they know when to water? The system does not rely on soil moisture, it requires a complex analysis of vine condition and grape flavor. So during vintage there is a team of people that walk the vineyards twice a week to review certain vine and grape bunch characteristics plus the grapes are crushed to determine the Fruit Weight plus the flavor and colour profile of the juice. I was very privileged to be a part of one of these grape crushing and juice reviews. An interesting and time consuming routine. The Mollydooker vineyards and the contracted growers vineyards are vast enough that it takes 2 days to go through the process across and this is done twice per week. Thus it takes 4 days per week to review all vineyards. The information is inputted into the computer program and the watering program for the next few days and the expected picking times are the result.
The fruit flavors from the grapes go through a range of fresh berries to plums to spice to coffee to jammy and finally to licorice. It is this final flavor that is sought before the grapes are picked. The resultant viticulture leads to the latest picking of McLaren Vale table wine grapes. But it does not stop here – watering is continued to allow root growth and a build up of carbohydrates to provide a good basis for the next vintage.
More information on the Trade Marked Marquis Vineyard Watering Program can be found on their web site.
The second system is the concept of Fruit Weight. Fruit Weight is the extent of the tongue that is covered by the “velvety sensation” of the fruit, or another way to see it as the memory of the wine after you spit it out. This is not to be confused with tasting sugar or other structural components of the wine. It is expressed as a percentage of the area of the tongue that is coated (starting from the tip of the tongue). It was commented that most commercial wines have a fruit weight of 20 – 25% where as Mollydooker has 4 levels of classification which are 65 – 74%, 75 – 84%, 85 – 94% & 95+%.
I had the pleasure of tasting the Mollydooker 2009 red wine range from the tank & just before bottling. My methodology was to taste the wine “normally” and then tried to determine the fruit weight as a second tasting. I admit I found the concept difficult but I could feel there was a difference.
I also grabbed the opportunity to be involved with a grape tasting (mentioned above). I was able to follow the flavor profiles they were looking for but I again could not say I was confident that I understood fruit weight – even though I could again feel there was differences in some mouth feel sensation.
I was a little concerned that I was not getting this concept of Fruit Weight, until I was told that the winemakers and viticulturalists have some considerable training with Sparky and other senior personnel before they are considered competent in Fruit Weight determination.
More information on the Trade Marked Marquis Fruit Weight can be found on their web site.
Mollydooker has 116 acres of vineyards (mainly around the winery) and have contracted growers with about 250 acres of vines all under the Marquis Vineyard Watering Program. Bonuses for the growers are possible based of the Fruit Weight of the resultant fruit.
Next week I will review the winery and wines from the “different” winery.