Birds&Bats Wine Productions - Wines of Momentary Destination
This blog post is in honour of all the people at Thames Water in Walton, who keep encouraging my dad to keep encouraging me to keep writing! So this is for all you water babies out there who can't get enough of my scribbled ramblings (massive ego boost btw, ta).
On reflection, it is about time. Months have passed now and Birds and Bats are tucked up in Tottenham, bouncing around The East and meeting and greeting all the winos of the area. It's been a jolly good time so far as they've also managed to get the wine out there and into peoples faces (something a bit like what's going on in the above picture, except its Birds & Bats doing the pointing and laughing).
'The Spectre' now has a few homes, and WMD is now back at Vinoteca, 8 Hoxton Square, the sister to 10 Greek Street (muchly conveniently bus minutes away, yum yum), also now at the wonderful 10 Cases in Covent Garden, and, the new kid on the Eastern block, VERDEN. A super charcuterie, cheese and wine bar in Clapton, where Birds and Bats also happen to be flapping the wings behind the bar and on the floor. We also got snaffled up by a couple of cool cats from Stokey (that's Stoke Newington, keep up!), two friends called L'Atypique Wines, who purchase small volumes of wines and spread the winey love all over London's food markets. What an amazing thing to do for the wine starved people of London! Go see them at Tottenham Green Market, Wapping Market and also the hugely renowned Real Food Market on the South Bank.
So it's been a suitably wonderful couple of months since the wine landed back on these shores. A marked difference to the weeks preceding, such is life. (North London is very refreshing compared to the student riddled streets of Kingston and Surbiton, plus, there's more wine bars and restaurants that want Riesling!).
The wine is being well received much to the delight of Birds, whose experience bottling nearly caused a coronary, and the future is looking pretty solid as they focus on getting the wine into people and places, whilst also working on the next project. It's all lined up to head to the Croatian peninsular of Istria (Eeeep!). More deets to follow once things are finalised, of course...
Meanwhile, head to the aforementioned London venues to slurp some of the new Riesling and if you can't be arsed to schlep it across town, then more fool you. But you can still email us so we can bring you some.
It's arrived! 'The Spectre' Riesling has arrived, finally, from Germany. A little later than we wanted, but better late than never. Which almost happened after our man in Germany decided to hit us with a few unexpected financial fisticuffs. Nice. More lessons learned and a bitter sweet end to what was a fantastic vintage for Birds&Bats.
Blogging is difficult when faced with adversity. And it's taken a lot of Positive Mental Attitude to sort myself out to write this blog (the ill-fated Land Rover, Semele, star of previous blogs and now having to be sold, due to being too much feckin trouble to deal with, has also been the cause of much discontent). But now, with the summer fast approaching, 'The Spectre' is now available to all. You lucky punters, you.
Our biggest supporter Vinoteca, will be the first to have the wine (next Wednesday) and will be selling it online, too. So hit them up for nationwide orders and pop into their four London wide locations (Chiswick, Soho, Farringdon and Marylebone) to have a bottle with some of their wonderful food offerings.
We are currently in chats with potential new customers and working on orders and deliveries for current peoples, so keep your eyes peeled for new info on where and when to get your mitts on a bottle.
While I'm at it, I may as well fill you in with what been going of these past few months. Of course, endless apologies for the sporadic nature of the blogs.
It's been a busy few months for both Birds and Bats, who had been apart for some time for the first part of the year as Bats buggered off to the Yarra Valley working vintage at Domaine Chandon and Birds, remaining in Germany, bottled and labelled 'The Spectre'. Upon returning to the UK, Birds worked for the International Wine Challenge, which proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences, not least because she got the opportunity to try wines other than Riesling, for the first time in six months (obvs there's nothing wrong with Riesling, you understand, but there's so much wine out there!), so that was good.
Since their reunion April, B+B have been working on promoting 'The Spectre', attending as many tastings as possible, working wine events in the capital and generally getting back into the groove of things. Plus, planning the next projects, which seem to be coming around quickly, but the 'don't stop me know feeling' is well and truly established.
Future events will be the London Wine Fair, where 'The Spectre' will be available to taste at the Plumpton College table (unsure right now where that will be located, but will be sure to tweet about it), where Bats will be there to tell you all about it and pour it in your gobs. Birds will be working at the event for the International Wine Challenge, but I'm sure she will be able to pop down and join in for a bit.
In case you missed it, Bats has updated the 'Everything in the Bottle' and 'Vital Statistics', so have a butchers at that info and get yourself up to speed with the new Wines of Momentary Destination wine.
Whilst working in Germany on the 2013 wine vintage, Birds&Bats had the opportunity to produce a gin.
Staffelter Hof not only produces wonderful Mosel Riesling, but also a range of stunning spirits and schnapps. All of them are produced from fresh raw ingredients and Gerd Klein is a master distiller in his own right. Smooth clean alcohol, with flavours of cherry, apple, the now legendarily named 'Williams Christ' pear, and even brandies of 30 years old, Gerd creates these spirits with care and dedication.
Two types of spirits can be made using the waste products from wine making. The most common and widely known is known as Tresterbrand in Germany, Marc in France or Grappa in Italy. This spirit is distilled from the the remaining skins and seeds, called pomace. This is fermented and then distilled.
The other spirit is Hefebrand. The remaining wine lees following fermentation and settling is distilled, producing a very neutral spirit (depending on the quality and type of lees, of course) and ideal for imparting flavours into. Especially gin botanicals.
Birds&Bats jumped at the opportunity to be able to produce their own style of gin and got to work on a new and unique recipe.
B+B love the flavours of Asia, so it wasn't too difficult a task to come up with the flavours they wanted. Along with the usual, and not so usual gin botanicals and flavours, it was decided on 4 unique and interesting flavours.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
A fruit native to Indochinese and Malaysian eco-regions. The leaves of this thorny bush are more commonly used in cooking, than the rough bumpy fruit and utilised in countries all over Indonesia and SE Asia.
Fresh or dried, the aroma of these distinctive 'double' leaves is intoxicating.
The dried berries of the Peruvian pepper tree, these lovely little things were actually banned in the U.S.A in 1982. The ban was later lifted and rightly so. These delicious dried berries (not actually peppercorns) have a sweet spice flavour.
Szechuan Flower Pepper
There are many species of this delightful plant used in many parts of China and Japan and countries in Africa. Coming from a tall spiky bush, these berries (again, not a pepper corn) are used in provincial Chinese cooking and are a key ingredient in Chinese five spice powder. The part of the berry used is in fact the outer husk of the ripened fruit. A sought after spice that creates a numbing sensation amongst a complex mix or flavours in the mouth.
A rhizome of plants in the ginger family, used for culinary and medicinal purposes originating in Indonesia. Much stronger and spicier than ginger, it would be a mistake to substitute it for such. The flavour is quite different and the spice element enough to rival some chillies.
Distillation and infusion of gin (and indeed any infused spirit) can happen in two ways. Either by tea-bagging (no, not that tea-bagging!!), where a pouch of the spices is boiled with the distillation, or, the spices are suspended or stuffed into the swan neck of the still and the vapours pass through, flavouring the alcohol.
The latter method is a far superior way to obtain clean and delicate aromas and flavours.
This posed an interesting challenge for Gerd, whose swan neck was not so large and so he set about construction a meshed platform inside the still to lay the spice out on. Turns out that a couple of shelves from an old fridge will do just fine!
Four distillates were distilled from the lees of 'The Spectre' Riesling on 4th January 2014.
As the distillation progresses, the quality and alcohol level slowly reduce. The first fraction of about 20litres came off at 89% and was smooth and intense with the spice flavours. The other three fractions came off at 74%, 62% and 53%, with flavour profiles gradually turning from fresh hay into almost silage aromas. A really interesting process, I'm sure you'll agree.
Birds&Bats (mostly Bats) set about blending these four fractions to find if any combination of these alcohols would result in more interesting flavour. It transpired that no, the original distillate was the superior alcohol on its own, than in combination with any of the other three, so B+B decided to opt for quality over quantity (of course!).
So there we have it. Wines of Momentary Destination gin 'The Spectre's Ashes'. Named so, because it is made from the dead yeast that produced the 2013 W.M.D. 'The Spectre' Riesling.
Included with the bottle is a little pouch that contains the actual spices used when distilling the gin, 'The Spectre's Ashes'.
*disclaimer: The pouch of 'ashes' is not designed to be added to the gin. Do not add to the gin!
Count down to bottling has well and truly begun. Two more days and the the bottles, corks and boxes will be delivered, then Birds and a little help from an Owl friend coming from England, will get stuck in.
Using the same manual bottling system as on the 'fuse' last vintage, which took almost 10 hours to get into bottle, bottling 'The Spectre' could take almost an entire 24 hours. Long ting. Birds has not yet informed the Owl of this fact yet....!
The wine has been filtered twice using diatomaceous earth (DE). First to remove the larger colloidal solids and yeast, then using finer DE to remove the smaller particles and bacteria. A final sterile filter will be used during bottling to make sure all the potential nasties are out.
The choice to use DE and not cellulose filter pads was due to the more gentle nature of DE filtration. Filter pads had the potential to remove more of the aromatic compounds and expose the wine to more oxygen.
The wine is tasting lovely now it's all polished up and constantly evolving at the moment. It seems to change in flavour with every tasting. Exciting stuff. The potential of 'The Spectre' to evolve in the bottle is big and Birds+Bats are filled with anticipation of what it will turn into. O' the joys of being a winemaker.
Time for the big reveal! No, Bats hasn't gone and got a nose job and Birds hasn't dyed her hair purple (as much as she'd like to). No, time to reveal the name and label of the new wine.
A couple of months ago, back in October, we had numerous strays and reprobates passing through the Mosel, helping out in the vines and taking up space at the dinner table, it was a jolly old time and there was much drinking and frivolity had.
One night, a few of us were hanging out in the old barn, exchanging spooky stories and trying to freak out one member of the group, who really didn't fancy doing a séance, but we did it anyway, just to annoy them. A few bottles had been sunk by then and none of us were taking the séance that seriously, so it ended up being a load of paper with letters written on all over the floor. We messed about and taunted the human bones on display in the barn (yes, really) and basically did a good job of trying to piss off the spirit world.
Eventually we were sitting, cozily, on the mezzanine in the barn. The barn is built against the outside wall of the main building that has two windows facing out onto the platform area. As we were sat around a coffee table chatting aimlessly, John, one of the group, pointed to one of the windows and said, "Is that window opening?". Birds was sat right next to it and we all looked to watch this window slowly open half way, then slowly close again. We knew this window was for a single toilet in the main building. The light was off. The window began to open again. We all looked around at each other and then back at the window. It began, very slowly, to close again. As soon as it closed fully, Birds sprang up and pushed against the glass to open the window again. It wouldn't open. Pushing with all her might, but not so much to push the glass out of the frame, she couldn't open the window. Everyone was looking at her with a mix of confusion and disbelief.
Birds sat down, a bit freaked out, exclaiming that no sense was being made here. Everyone around the table agreed that it was all a bit strange. Bats then motioned to Birds to look back at the window. They could see the handle of the window slowly moving down into the locked position. There was no one holding onto the handle.
This left everyone a little bit shocked. No one knew what to do or say. There must have been some physical explanation for it. Some practical explanation, right? Talking ourselves out of it and drinking more wine, we all laughed when the doors of the cupboard in the room swung open violently. That was obviously a draft. Right?
The next day we asked around if anyone in the house had been to the toilet at about ten thirty, not actually gone to the toilet (as we would have heard it flush), left the light off and opened and closed the window a couple of times?
"Geist!", was the the answer.
So there you go. Our very own spook. To honour this spirit, as we clearly pissed them off and we want to placate them so they don't freak us out in the future, we are naming the Riesling after it.
Here's the label.
Firstly, Happy New Year! Hope all your prospects for 2014 come to fruition. There's plenty up Birds&Bats' sleeves. But I can't tell you, as it would ruin the surprise.
Tomorrow Birds&Bats return to Germany for the final stages of the Riesling production. Oh, sorry, you didn't even know they'd returned? Of course you didn't! Because I'm not being very good at blogging (see previous blogs for excuses).
Well, they returned to Blightly for Christmas and the new year, to catch up with family and re-kindle their friendships. They made it only just in time, though. Passport issues for Bats meant a last minute dash across three countries and onto Le Shuttle, just making it back in time for tea on Christmas Eve.
The Landy made it back with out a hitch, thanks to an enthusiast in Kröv identifying a lack of oil in the gear box and axle joints, which turned out to be no oil at all! She ran pretty smoothly after that. However, the clutch fork decided to malfunction on NYE, but that's another blog entirely....!
So, I guess you should be filled in with what's happening. Have we even revealed the name of the wine yet? No!? Ok. So the name of the new Riesling is a bit spooky sounding and, well, spooky things have happened since staying in Germany, so it's relatively fitting. I'll save the actual ghost story for when the label is finished and do a big old reveal then. The label is coming along nicely and we should have something to feast your eyes in a couple of weeks.
Before B&B left for England they blended the three separate wines together to create the final wine (Ta-Da!). The vino needs some time to settle down and for the flavours to develop so B&B can work on the final tweaks and get the final analysis results. We know the alcohol content is lower than first predicted and wanted, but that fits in with current trends I suppose! The oak flavour comes through very well. Just enough to make you think, "Hmmm, what's that interesting flavour? It's bloody flavourful, this 'ere wine." The wine is fresh and rounded and with slightly more weight than a Mosel Riesling typical of the area. Birds&Bats are satisfied with the results and are looking forward to getting it bottled.
Of course, you've not forgotten about the gin? I'm sure that's the only reason you're reading this blog, right? Who wants to know about wine deacidification when they can anticipate the arrival of the new gin on the block?!
The gin was conceived early this year and is ready and waiting for bottles. Tasting pretty, pretty, pretty........pretty good, we are now working on the label design to blow all other labels out of the bar back. Coming soon to a bar near you!
Well, this is a little embarrassing, as we promised you a regular blog, but we've been a couple of useless ***** and not got round to it.
In our defence, we have been extremely busy and very sociable over the past few months and when you finish work on Monday, wake up and find out that it's Friday, it's difficult to muster the brain energy over the weekend to do anything apart from nurse the hang over and amuse ones self with colourful moving images...
Anyway, excuses out of the way, what's happening with the wine?!
Well, it's fermented now, you'll be (un)surprised to hear. In fact, we stopped the fermentation a couple of weeks ago. We've had a few dramas, we cannot lie. Crazy fermentations, reduction and subsequent pump-overs; removal from barrel, returning to barrel, then changing our mind and removing from barrel again; and then film-yeasts to top it all off....It's been mildly challenging and not at all conventional, but we were never heading out to be anyway. The smalls issues were enough to keep us thinking and using our instincts, but not so much that we got all stressful. Apart from when Birds thought she'd killed the yeast....
We had three separate ferments. One in stainless steel, about 450L, one in an old 1000L barrel and one in a smaller 225L barrique. The 1000L barrel was transferred to stainless steel because we weren't happy with the fermentation and despite our best efforts to control it, we decided it would be better to put it in steel. We removed this ferment from the barrel as it was becoming reduced...we couldn't really be sure what was going on. The yeast were obviously stressed, but we didn't know if was from yeast already present in the barrel, fighting with the Torulaspua delbukeii (Td), or a lack of nutrition for the Td to feed on. We added some nutrient, just in case, and returned the ferment back to the barrel. It seemed to do the trick.
But after a few days the reduction returned. This time it was worse. We waited until we inoculated with the Saccharomyces, to see if that would make a difference, but in the end we erred on the side of caution and removed it from the barrel completely. The ferment was much happier in tank, although the reduction remained throughout.
It has since disappeared now we have added sulphur and stirred up the lees a bit (something we were told would happen by the big boss man "You are caring so much for the wine, you will kill it." ! How do you respond to that??).
The barrique ferment tasted fantastic. In fact, following Birds' initial doubts, it was decided to remove the 225L that had been fermenting for about three weeks and blend that in with the old barrel/new tank wine, and put some fresh ferment from the old barrel/new tank into it. We did some rough blending of all three and the barrique flavour really hits some high notes.
The original tank had no problems whatsoever, in fact, it tastes bloody incredible.Birds&Bats are pleased one baby made it all on its own.
As previously mentioned, we did not de-acidify the juice prior to fermentation. This is because we wanted to see how much of the total acidity would drop out during the process. The acidity is still pretty high and although we want a fresh 'racy' Riesling, we still need to drop it a bit.
This is our next process and Birds&Bats have been discussing the method and process for a while. It's a bit if a faff to be honest, so to reduce the amount we mess around with the wine, in terms amelioration, we are also trying to work out how best we can do it without compromising on the quality levels. This should happen before Christmas and if not, then soon after. Riesling needs a good rest after fermentation, so there's no real rush.
In the other mean time, we have gin! GIN! Did we mention we're making gin? We're making gin. Yay!
All of our spices arrived last week, and we are working out how much lees (dead yeast cells and sediment from wine fermentation) we need to distil to get 50L. No small feat, and we are reliant on the big boss man to really help us through working this out. So to make it more fun, we are now working on the recipe and infusing small amounts of alcohol with our spice mix to see what tastes best and develop our final recipe! It's pretty damn cool.
Here are some photos.
Ok, so some of you may be wondering, “Where are all the fascinating blog posts keeping me updated with all the exciting news from the Mosel?”.
Well unlike last year in France, where we rarely worked longer than seven hours a day and finished working mid-afternoon, allowing for languorous hours on the terrace, getting smashed on cheap rose, and imaging ourselves as modern day Hemmingway’s as we bosched out an almost bi-weekly update, complete with snazzy pictures and links. Well, not so much here in Germany….Here, we are working. Hard.
A few weeks ago, as our plans for the new WMD were incubating, the weather suddenly turned and became predictably unpredictable, causing mad rushes to vineyards to check on berry development and praying for some more sunshine. Well, the sun refused and the grapes had to come in much earlier than anticipated. So for the past four weeks, its been picking, picking, picking.
It was all a bit of a whirlwind and in amongst the grapes, the WMD harvest was brought in on the 24th, 25th and 28th October. Botrytis had begun to set in and we were very selective in our picking. A fantastic team of people from all over the world descended on The Hof for a visit and experience, so despite some terrible rain some mornings, the picking was swift and full of japes, swearing in Finnish, singing, shouting at tourists and general shenanigans.
We had pick of the top fruit from the vineyards this year, something we are most grateful and happy about. Fruit from a variety of sites, of varying ages (including 100 year old, un-grafted vines!) and aspects are included in the mix. We chose the grapes we thought had the most interesting flavours and most potential. All of a sudden we were making the wine in our heads. It was finally happening, again!
Currently we have three separate ferments; one 1000L fuder (over 50 years!), one 225L reconditioned French oak barrel with new German oak heads and one stainless steel ferment, all inoculated with Torulaspora delbruekii yeast to be followed by Sacchromyces cerevisiea. A separate harvest report will be uploaded onto the Vital Stats page, giving details of volumes and methods.
Fermentation is plodding along at a very slow pace at the moment, dropping at about 1/2 an Oeschle a day. So it’s not very exciting at the moment. Apart from that we have 2 barrel fermentations and wine in the making! Eeep!