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Follow Ben in a Day's Work at Glug
Thursday, 3rd April, 2014  - David Farmer

The way we do things at Glug is a bit unusual so I thought you would find it interesting to follow Ben around for a day - though I have picked an interesting day. The pictures help explain the story and assist in understanding the origins of the wines we sell.

The Morning
Ben was approached a month back by a tiny winery with some left-over wine to sell. Two parcels were on offer, a shiraz and a cabernet, all estate grown from a block of 40-45 year old vines, right in the heart of the Barossa and not far from the central town of Nuriootpa.

The samples looked good, a price was negotiated and a few days ago he left early in the morning to collect the wine. The winery pumped the shiraz into the 1000 litre tank and the cabernet into the 300 litre tank and he returned to the Glug warehouse with 1050 litres (115 cases). The wines were then pumped into old oak barrels.

The Glug policy is to keep small, unique parcels like this separate as we want customers to enjoy the changes in flavour from one vineyard to another. Ben had already made the decision to release the wines as a special bottling rather than tip them into a vat with other Barossa wine.

Large companies of course deal in 5000 plus cases and would not mess around with tiny lots like this.

The Glug truck with two tanks of wine arrives at the Glug warehouse. The pallets of bottles are overflow from a neighbour, Hahn Transport; they handle logistics and storage for Woolworths.

The next job was to taste some of our barrel stocks, in particular the Coonawarra Cabernet and my favourite a Wrattonbully Cabernet, both from 2013. Barrels of wine need constant maintenance as at any moment they can turn feral from the one hundred and one types of bacteria, unidentified microbes, viruses, fungi and yeasts that are always eating each other or looking to dine on our carefully made wine.

Ben's verdict; the wine needs more time in oak and to calm down the microbes a dose of sulphur was added.

Ben assessing the Coonawarra Cabernet stocks.

I skip a few hours here as boring office work took over, another form of maintenance which can also turn feral at any moment if left unattended.

The Afternoon
Earlier in the year we purchased a block of cabernet grapes located south of the Barossa town of Tanunda and mentioned to the owners the Schwarz family that we tended to favour a late picking. The natural tendency for any primary producer is to cut the weather risks and get the harvest in.

For years I imported a lot of wine from France and won few arguments when I asked for the ripest expressions possible. With such a variable climate most growers rushed to pick at the modest sugar levels which would make a passable wine and that became the normal standard. That way the cash flow for the year was secured.

I found it difficult to build a long term business as while the basic country wines were cheap enough to sell on the French image regardless of vintage, selling poor vintages of expensive Burgundies is not my idea of fun. Writing glowing copy about wines that are not up to scratch simply to get your money back is not a healthy occupation.

By the early 1980s I had lost interest in the country wines of France and drinking many bottles in subsequent years has not changed my rather bleak view of the wine quality.

Early picked flavours are not for the Glug crew and certainly not from the Barossa and as much as some may bleat on about alcohol content, cooked characters, and prune like flavours, Ben and I will proceed on our way and pick ripe fruit late in the season.

A week or so back I wished we had picked as the weather turned nasty and it did not look good and I thank the Schwarz crew, in particular Mark, for full support.

So the afternoon job for Ben was to pace the vineyard, examine the fruit, get tests done and estimate when picking should start.

Ben with a selection of berries from many vines for testing.

The Schwarz vineyard looking east to the Eden Valley ranges. Note the heavy black soil type known as Biscay.

A bunch of late season Cabernet at a ripe stage.

After the afternoon sampling grapes and thinking about the wine which will be made it was back to the Glug shed. The recent purchase of stainless steel storage was a handy bit of work but now they needed cleaning. Fortunately I had picked up on this and went to ground.

Ben is trapped in a tank. We will fill the tank with wine and float him to the surface.

There is a saying at Glug; 'Don't worry, you can always count on me.' I turned off my phone and wandered down to the Tanunda Club for a few glasses of riesling, as after all it had been a hectic day.

P.S. The Barossa cabernet was picked on the 1st April. I'll keep you informed of the progress.

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