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ORIGINS - The Beginning of Aphelion
Mar 02, 2022
It was a coming home.
With stars in our eyes, we left Sydney in December 2013.
Destination: Willunga in McLaren Vale.
Rob with a winemaking role and Lou taking her sustainability management role with her.
Rob returning to his childhood home.
The first thing we did, while (many!) boxes remained unpacked, was decide to make some wine.
Rob's position meant he had made connections with key growers already. Still, he had to sweet talk his way into a precious tonne of A grade bush vine Grenache from Marsh Brini's enviable vineyard in Blewitt Springs.
We had no preconceptions about what 'could' or 'should' be done with just one single tonne of fruit. With an appetite for hard work and meticulous hands-on attention to detail, Rob's first Aphelion winemaking plan was hatched.
One Tonne, Four Wines
Not one, not two, not three wines. Rob planned to make four wines from that first tonne of grapes. This was known as “The Grenache Project.
First things first, the decision was made early to pick the tonne for aromatics. Rob did his best to influence picking times, but taking only a tonne meant we were (way) down the pecking order to dictate such things! Through hard work, and strong relationships this has completely changed by now. Read more about Aromatics
The plan for the four wines was genius. It was daring. It meant a LOT of fiddly, completed by hand, hard work.
- Whole Berry
Half of the tonne was run through the destemmer leaving berries intact. They were fermented in a picking bin and hand plunged after a few days of ferment to release the juices and progress flavour development. Free run juice was siphoned off and hand bottled using a Coopers home brew “little bottler” keg and a hand cranked corker with the help of our good mate Craig.
Later we hand applied labels on our lounge room table. Using a crockpot we melted brick-sized chunks of white wax, laid newspaper on our kitchen floor, grabbed a bowl of iced water and hand wax dipped the top of each bottle while sitting on the kitchen floor.
Our Burmese cat was most curious about the whole process!
After taking most of the free run juice from the whole berry and whole bunch ferments, the remaining free run juice plus the skins, seeds and stems from the whole berry and whole bunch ferments were then combined and run very gently through a small basket press to extract more tannic, savoury, deeply coloured juice from the grapes.
All hand bottled, labelled and waxed of course. This was a labour of love!
This was a combination of 50% whole berry and 50% whole bunch ferments and was the precursor to the wine now known as Confluence.
Same bottling, labelling and waxing as above. I will never forget the smell of the melting wax that filled our whole house!
The original Confluence.
Eagle eyed readers will have spotted an interloper in the Grenache line up pictured. We also made a white wine in our very first 2014 vintage.
It was an Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, made with grapes from Bill Hardy’s vineyard. It was delicious. Fermented in barrel and stirred on its’ lees. The one and only Chardonnay we have made.
For this one we used the electronic bottle capper to attach screw caps. I only had one fatality, after hours of capping one bottle was misaligned and the capper smashed it to smithereens in dramatic fashion! Lucky I remembered to wear my PPE.
From 2015 we also added a new wine to our Grenache line up.
The other half a tonne of grapes were fermented direct in the picking bin as whole bunches of grapes. After a few days we commenced foot treading the bunches in the fermenter on a daily (sometimes twice daily!) basis. Very good exercise!
The Proof Is In The Tasting
Rob tasted a vertical of our Grenache’s with Nick Stock last year and the 2016’s in particular had stood the test of time brilliantly!
Tasting line up:
Grenache Berry 2016, The Aromat 2017, The Aromat 2018
Grenache Bunch 2016, The Verdant 2017, The Verdant 2018
Grenache 2016, The Confluence 2017, The Confluence 2018, Confluence 2019
The 2014 vintage of wines were released in mid 2015 and we were off!
We hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane and the insight to what it took to start Aphelion.
Have you tried any of our 2014’s? They are rare as hen’s teeth now. We don’t even have many, the ones we do have are first or last to be bottled. See them in the little video above.
Have you got any 2014’s in your cellar? Tasted them recently? We would love to know how you found them and what they have developed into over time.