Birds&Bats Wine Productions - Wines of Momentary Destination
So you all know how to make wine now, right? Bats will not be held responsible for any off ferments or spontaneous MLF or badly calculated sulphite additions. The best way to avoid problems is a cool head, some sturdy boots and a keen palate at breakfast time (not for the benefit of tasting your scrambled eggs).
So we pressed the wine on Monday. What can we say? The results are great. And we’re not just saying that…
Down to 997 density, ‘fuse’ still wasn’t quite dry, so it was a good time to press as the wine had the added protection of CO2 still being produced by the yeast, so we could get it back in tank to calm down and finish fermenting.
Corin got his hands on an old skool pneumatic press that turned up needing a right good clean (his own press is currently out of action). We spent a good amount of time cleaning that and then we got to work helping Corin and Jayne press their own syrah out. Corin and Jayne’s wine is produced from the same plot of syrah as ours, except the vines their fruit came from are a few years older. Their wine has turned out great too, so we are looking forward to doing a comparative tasting.
After more cleaning and a couple of Cosmopolitans (cheers Jayne!), we were set to get ‘fuse’ in the press.
This video shows a modern basket press in action, some nifty camera work and inappropriate clothing to wear whilst operating and working in a winery. Please note that this is not how most women dress when making wine. This video is actually useless in explaining anything at all, but I had to listen to the song all the way through….
Unlike the Italians above, we ended up with approximately 500L of free-run (a rough estimation as the amount was too small to measure in the 5000L tank we transferred it to) and we were blown away by the colour and flavour. Birds got into a flap worrying that the press wine would obliterate this fine flavour and aroma profile but Bats was confident that if they just kept tasting the press wine as it was being extracted, they could stop when they felt that the tannin extraction was becoming too much.
Please note that this wine is not being made for keeping a long time. It is definitely a shower, not a grower! Lots of tanninextraction is not required, that in a wine designed for long-term ageing would ‘mellow’ out and integrate, becoming softer and smoother. With ‘fuse’ too much tannin would make the wine bitter and astringent so we have retained elegance and freshness allowing you to drink and enjoy the wine as soon as you buy it.
In the end, we got exactly 700L, which by strange coincidence was exactly what Bats calculated (funny that!), meaning that we will have nearly 78 cases of fine wine to splash about.
The wine finished fermenting on Wednesday and we are waiting on the final lab results that will confirm everything went swimmingly. That’s the fun part over.…although, today we are going to be working on the label for ‘fuse’, which is near completion, so you won’t have to wait long to see the baby’s face!
This is also the time where Birds can no longer put off the procurement operations of bottles and corks and all that jazz, so there will be a bottle price coming soon too! I ain’t gonna lie: this ain’t no two Euro co-op rose bullshit. This is proper, honest, hard graft wine making. No griping about the price.
On that note we would like to reveal that we have our first confirmed order! One case down, 77 to go. Don’t rest on your laurels people, once word gets around, this wine will take flight and once it’s gone, it’s gone. One Wine, One Place, One Year.
To get your grapes suitably crushed and safely into your tank you will need (please click on the hyper-linked text for odd videos and more information):
Note, all equipment should be squeaky clean. Best results are achieved by cleaning with water, then caustic, then water, then citric acid and then water.
In order to turn your grape juice into wine you will need:
From now on you have many management decisions but for the most part:
When our wine has reached dryness the next instalment will be posted here to tell you the steps to take from tank to bottle.
Blimey! It’s almost the end of the first month, ALREADY!? Where does the time go…?
Well, we’ve put a lot of time into getting the ‘fuse’ onto people’s shelves and into people’s glasses and just blatantly walking into peoples establishments and pouring wine into their faces. It’s been a lot of fun and it has paid off!
We are now very pleased to say that we have W.M.D.’fuse’ in no less than 7 new and exciting venues in London, Brighton and Stamford (Lincolnshire):
Here are the London venues you can go and drink 'fuse' and also eat some fabulous food and drink other vinous delights (but not as much as 'fuse', obvs...)
10 Greek Street
Run by two lovely chaps called Luke and Cam, these guys have been critically praised for their delicious food and approach to dining.
Birds was really attracted to their wine list, after she popped in of an evening to get a bite to eat, and following a brief chat with Luke a tasting was arranged.
Luke ‘got it’, he understood our project and our objective and enjoyed the wine, enough to include it on his list. We were chuffed to say the least.
The restaurant is in the heart of Soho in London and is the perfect place to pop in for lunch or some dinner. Located just off Soho Square, you can slip in without anybody noticing, settle down at the bar and eat delicious morsels (from the daily changing menu) while chatting to the staff and watching the goings on in the open kitchen, then slink back out into the city as if nothing happened. It’s a lovely little oasis.
The sheer value for money from the wine list is worth a visit alone, including a superb Piemonte red by Sperino that is hugely complex...More great value, left of centre offerings from the Jurancon, Clare Valley, Rhone, various German and Austrian wines and now, of course, the Cotes Catalans are all available by the glass and carafe.
Pop in when you’re in town, you won’t regret it.
The Greenberry Café
If you live in North London, you are no doubt aware of the area that is Primrose Hill. Famous for being famous and having famous people being famous in it, this journey to the North was un-chartered territory for Birds&Bats, who reside in the outer-limits of the South West with Tom and Barbara, Margo and Jerry in what sometimes feels like an episode of Stella Street.
Don’t get us wrong, we’ve been to Camden and Islingston and places like that, but that was mainly to go and drink cider and get sweaty and stomped on at some random venue somewhere…This journey was to go and munch on some of the offerings Morfudd has to offer and to let her have a taste of the ‘fuse’, to see if she liked it enough to be listed in this wonderfully fresh and vibrant café.
Thankfully she did and has added ‘fuse’ to her very impressive wine list that includes a multitude of Sherries, fantastic sparkling offerings and wonderful red and white wines.
Her menu is modern and covers the demands of many a varied palate, just like her wine list. Breakfast offerings include smoked salmon from Stoke Newington (that’s the place in East London!) and sausages from Dingley Dell; how could you not order those?? The variety from the rest of the menu includes flavours from Japan, Continental Africa, North and South America and good ‘ol England.
The salt beef was amazing, the best I have ever tasted. No joke of a lie (ok, I’ve not had the pleasure of going to any of the new fandangled offerings in town and about), but the meat is bright pink, soft and flaky with melting fat...It is delicious. The ceviche with passion fruit is inspired and created confusion and delight in our mouths and minds.
We are very pleased to have the ‘fuse’ in this excellent establishment, in the far off land that is North London and we will be venturing up there more often to eat our way through the menu, drink sherry and eat ice-cream. We hope you do too.
Next time, our Brighton friends will get a look in and I’ll wax lyrical about the mysteries of The Black Dove, the delights of Ten Green Bottles and the wonder that is My Brewery Tap.
All these places are listed on our stockists page, so don’t feel like you have to wait for me to tell you about them, find out for yourself.
If you can’t be bothered to leave your house, but want to try some of our lovely ‘fuse’, we now offer delivery to all UK mainland addresses. Please contact us for details and arrangement.
So, Birds&Bats had to leave France before their wine. Due to a few communication issues and the French laisezz faireattitude, our collection date was arranged a day late, when no one was available to receive the truck. So it got pushed back a few days and provided Birds with a whole new dose of anxiety to deal with. However, the British shipping company that we used were on it like white on rice and sorted us out with new freight hauliers, who arrived on the following Monday and got the wine back to us on the Thursday.
Whilst Birds&Bats were waiting for the ‘fuse’ to get home, they got to work sorting out its new room, namely a section of the cellar under the house where Birds lives (not a wooden one attached to a tree, in someone's garden, I might add) in South West London. After clearing some floor space and laying down a carpet (yes, a carpet. The wine deserves it!), a neat little cranny was ready for the imminent arrival of the wine boxes.
Early on the Thursday a moany old delivery driver showed up with the wine. Moaning about the traffic, moaning about the weight of our shipment, moaning about not being insured to put the pallet anywhere else but the pavement (after we asked if he could push them onto the drive way). Jeeze…
He was the second person from the hauliers to ask if we were importing bird and bat toys. Considering the weight of a pallet and a half of wine, I wonder if he considered what our ‘toys’ were made out of? Concrete, obviously.
He stopped moaning once we gave him a cup of tea and proceeded to get the pallets off the truck. Why he thought it would be a good idea to park up the kerb is beyond me, and Birds&Bats had to act as ballast as he attempted to get the pallet off the tail lift, at a very sketchy angle!
It was back, the hard work was done, Birds&Bats had done it!
From what started out as an idea only a few months ago in July, our winged crusaders had sourced, produced, designed, argued, deliberated, negotiated, researched, registered, worried, celebrated, worked, rested, paid out, put up with, put down, span around and shamelessly self promoted on the usual social media outlets to get this project up and running, and fast. We’ve popped-up and we’re staying.
The wine itself has displayed a profound robustness to the trauma of being filtered, bottled and shipped, displaying no ‘bottle-shock’ symptoms at all and is tasting as good as it did in tank prior to bottling. Birds&Bats have received some excellent feedback on the wine so far from friends and profs alike and they are feeling very proud of themselves. To avoid filling your heads with pre-conceived ideas of what we want you to think the wine tastes like, Birds&Bats are not going to provide a ‘tasting note’.
There may be some small differences between bottles (this is an organic evolving product, remember), different temperatures at which it is drunk, various foods and aromas involved and all the other million or so influences on taste and perception that make the wine taste as it does. So telling you that it tastes like strawberries and cream is not much help when all you can taste is cherries on leather (this isn't reflective of the 'fuse' by the way!).
What we would like to say is that this is a wine that is a true reflection of its varietal. It was deemed so representative of the Syrah grape that the French authorities said that we could slap the word ‘Syrah’ all over our label if we wanted to. This is a wine by design. We had time and production limits and we made the best wine we could with what we had. We are very pleased with the result. So, what Birds&Bats would like from you lot, is to get back to us with your tasting notes and your impressions of the wine. It’s the most honest way to get a true reflection of what we have done and to provide you lot yet to try it, with a better idea of what you are about to drink. (Any feedback along the lines that it ‘tastes like doo-doo’ will not be published, unless backed up with reasons and humorous anecdotes.)
Once again, Birds&Bats have to thank all those that helped and supported us in our some-what bird (and bat) brained idea. The support and encouragement from friends, family and profs in the trade has certainly kept our sails filled and we look forward to hearing everyone’s feedback.
We now have two official stockists in England and the prospects of the ‘fuse’ being on the shelves and lists of other such establishments is becoming a reality in Brighton and other London venues soon.
What now? What’s next for Birds&Bats?? Well, we can now tell you that they are heading over to Germany next year to a little known place called the Mosel. Heard of it? Apparently they make some white wine called Riesling? It’s meant to be good….
Birds & Bats are back in France and preparing to bottle. Corin and Jayne have gone above and beyond to get everything ordered and ready for Birds & Bats and we are nearly ready. We managed to get about 60 litres of wine off the lees, that were put aside with the Polymust; not as much as we were hoping for, but it’s better than nothing! The bulk of the wine was lovely and clear. The end of the tank was a bit too cloudy and we didn’t want to clog up the filter pads when we filtered the stuff, so we ended up with 6 bottles to drink. It tastes bloody great by the way.
The nerves were rising in Birds & Bats’ bellies before flying to France. What could’ve or would’ve happened to the wine whilst they had been away!? A huge number of things fabricated in Birds mind, but of course, it was fine. Protected by the little sulphur that remained from the addition following pressing, the wine has retained all the rich fruit flavour and aroma that could have been lost throughout the whole process. Excellent wine making and scrupulous attention to detail throughout has made sure of this.
Birds modelling the filter pads. Smooth side of filter pads (left) Rough side of filter pads (right). The white colouration of Birds' hand is the result of sulphur used for cleaning, removing the lovely tan she acquired over the summer. Nice.
So the next thing to do was to figure out how to use the plate & frame filter. Following some advice sought through book-face, we now knew how to set it up (thank you Michael Jones). Needing more rubber washers than we thought was necessary, we managed to get the filter running on the third time of trying without it pissing water everywhere. Result! Birds had her heart in her mouth and thought she was going to vom during the whole process (it’s like removing the stabilisers and letting go of the bike for the first time, I imagine!). But, as seems to be the theme with this project, all ran smoothly and turned out fine.
Bats running acidulated water through the plate and frame filter. This adjusts the pH so that the pads are prepared for the wine to be passed through and gets rid of the taste of the filter pads, which can be a bit cardboardy.
The next challenge was to get the stuff into bottle. Corin and Jayne had arranged to borrow the bottling, corking and labelling machine from a local and rather obtuse vigneron, who made it more difficult than was necessary to get hold of the equipment, which when was procured, was in the most disgusting state. The stink that emanated from the bottling machine was akin to the gubbins that lies at the bottom of a pond created by toad excrement. Gross. Jayne and Birds had to travel back with the windows of the car open (it’s bloody freezing in France by the way) to avoid retching. Eugh…
Well, we got it all back and gave it all a right good clean. No bugs here, thank you very much. All set and ready for bottling. The corking machine was manned by Birds, Bats had the wine udders ready to go and Jayne was set ready to label the bottles.
Ah, yes, the labels…Upon setting the thing up and working out how to thread the spool onto the machine, we realised that the labels had been wound the wrong way, meaning that we had to re-wind all 1000 labels so we could get them on the bottles. *Sigh* Oh well, needs must and all that. The labelling could be done the next day. It wasn’t too much of a problem and soon we were in a decent flow with bottles piling up everywhere. After 7 hours we were done. Just like that. A few glitches with the bottling machine, but that is always expected, and we didn’t loose a drop. In fact, we were a few bottles over, meaning we could drink them. Happy Days.
The next day Birds & Bats worked on getting the labels on the bottles and into boxes. That took about 6 hours and we finished with a grand total of 772 bottles. A little less than we were aiming for, but the results of the settling and attempted lees recovery was not as successful as we were hoping. This is very limited stuff people and the fact that the wine is excellent means that you are going to have to be quick to get your hands on it. Don’t hesitate! Get in touch now!!
Birds & Bats are relieved, elated, filled up with litres of tea and cannot wait to get back and start selling the stuff.
Next exciting episode: How to keep your cool when the French shippers are too lazy to come and collect your wine.
Okey doke, things have been hectic and not so hectic and maybe I’ve just been a bit lazy in writing this new blog post.
Now that the wine-making is pretty much done, Birds&Bats have been getting their heads around all the logistics of ordering bottles and corks and labels and sorting out the shipping and all the other stuff that makes a hole in the head preferable. Birds&Bats cannot thank Domaine Vella Frontera enough for all the help they have given us over the past few weeks with these tasks.. This wine would not be where it is without them, so thank you once again Corin & Jayne (you beauties!).
So what’s been happening with the wine you must be thinking? Well, things are falling into place after going up and down a bit: There was two weeks of lees stirring, which in hindsight may not have been the best thing to do. The lees are so fine that natural settling has been slow, very slow, and the first racking revealed a MASSIVE amount of gross lees, an amount that just simply cannot be afforded to loose. After racking the wine, the gross lees were transferred to a separate tank and Birds&Bats had a think and did a bit of research looking for products that would help with some lees recovery.
During this period of time the wine began to get stinky….Uh oh, I can hear you say. Yeah, not good…After ‘fuse’ settled down a bit following racking, the rather undesirable odour of the dreaded H2S was becoming apparent. Birds nearly cried and even Bats had a look of fearful doubt cross his face (but only for a second!). The gross lees that had been kept, which by now had begun to settle, were inspected. Stinky lees would have been an indication that things were heading in the wrong direction, but a good sniff and a taste revealed that the lees were fine, delicious even!
Following a few cranial collisions, Birds&Bats decided to re-introduce the gross lees back into the wine and some serious oxygenating pump-over action was done. Balance reduction with oxidation! Birds was still on the verge of tears, but Bats was (as always) confident that it was only ‘baby wine farts’ and that it would dissipate in time. This method worked a treat, which was confirmed by a group of people coming for a tasting of the Vella Frontera wines remarking on what a delicious aroma they could smell. Bats was re-named the Wine Jedi by Jayne and the smile returned to Birds face.
So once that drama was over research returned to finding something that could help reduce the volume losses.
A Laffort product called Polymust Organiq was found that claims to be the best thing since sliced bread for promoting lees compaction and improving filterability. This product was chosen as Birds&Bats wanted to keep the wine vegan and veggie, so no fish bits, cow feet or ovum albumen in this wine, making it allergen free, so all you sensitive ones out there can drink it too.
A trial was conducted and the polymust was good, it worked! Hurrah!! The appropriate dose was chucked in the wine and the gross less (that was saved in a separate tank) and now its a waiting game for everything to settle. Time is of the essence!
THEN!? That’s it. The wine needs to be racked again off the lees and prepared for bottling. Holy Moly. Not only are there birds and bats flying around, but a shit load of butterflies too. It’s sometimes pretty nerve wracking this wine-making lark.
We are bottling the lovely ‘fuse’ in the 1st week of December and it will be back in Blighty soon after, just in time for Christmas.
The long awaited face of 'fuse' has now hit the printing press. The label is a wrap around affair covering just shy of 360° of our burgundy style bottles.
Right, well this blog was going to be an explanation of our methods and ‘the recipe’, but Bats is going to write that one as all the important bits and pieces are bouncing around in his head (Birds and the MW In Training are the cellar rats on this project – too many cooks and all that).
So you may be wondering where this immaculate conception of Bacchanalian possibilities is being made? Well, we sought out a wine making couple in the village and asked them ever so politely, if they could let us use some of their winery space and pretty please lend us a tank.
The lovely Corin et Jayne Fairchild of Domaine Vella Frontera said it was no problem at all and so we have moved in. These two winemakers have been running their domaine for 6 years after leaving Blighty in search of better things. They produce three different styles of wine from their old vine Grenache and Syrah and other varieties that cover their 7.5hectare estate. In between toiling in the vines and producing their wine, they also host local wine tours and Jayne, who is a superb cook, provides a spectacular pic-nic lunch to accompany the vinous explorations. Degustation (tasting) is available by appointment and Corin and Jayne can be contacted through twitter and facebook.
These guys have been so accommodating by allowing us to butt into their lives and make a mess of the winery and we are very grateful. Without them, 'fuse' wouldn't have become a reality. Thank you guys!
In the meantime, while we wait for Bats to reveal his secrets, we have some super photos of our action in the vines, the dreaded caterpillars (!) and grape juice being thrown around. Enjoy.