The 2005/2006 growing season was normal except for a hotter than average January. After veraison in January, the ripening months were moderate and cooler than average. In 2005/2006 the heat summation for Whalebone Vineyard for the 7-month growing season was 1394°C days against the average of 1377°C days. In nearby Coonawarra the heat summation for 2005/2006 was 1431°C days.
The low temperature summation of the Whalebone Vineyard and the still air ripening conditions particularly suit the fastidious Merlot variety and provides one of the truly “distinguished sites” for this variety. In 2006 the Merlot at Whalebone Vineyard was harvested on the 21st of March.
The sugar level at harvest was 24.2 Brix, the pH was 3.39 and the acid 6.42gpl as tartaric acid.
The Merlot grapes from the Whalebone Vineyard were hand harvested. The grapes were de-stemmed, partially roller crushed and the must was chilled to 3°C into 1 tonne fermentation tubs.
A 3-day cold maceration preceded the beginning of fermentation with selected native yeasts followed by twice daily hand plunging to break up the cap of skins. At the peak of fermentation the temperature of the fermenting juice reached 35°C before exhausting all sugar after 14 days. The fermented wine and skins were sealed down for a further week of post fermentation maceration before draining and pressing directly to French oak barriques, 70% new and 30% 1 use.
After malo-lactic fermentation in barrique the wine was racked and sulphured followed by a racking each 6 months until after a total of 4 rackings and 20 months in barrique the wines were clear.
The Whalebone Vineyard 2006 Merlot was given a light egg white fining before being bottled without filtration in March of 2008. The in-bottle analysis of the Whalebone Vineyard 2006 Merlot is:
The Taste of the Wine
The Whalebone Vineyard terroir exerts its strength across all four of the varieties grown there and Merlot develops the smokey Eucalyptus, anise and fresh earth aromas and flavours that are the signature of this distinguished site.
The Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard 2006 Merlot has the ripe plum and exotic spice of Merlot from the warm 2006 vintage. The very sweet fruit middle palate is matched by a significant bulk of tannin providing a fine grained and savoury finish. 2006 is a vintage defined by its tannins.
This is a rich and ripe wine, which will best accompany dishes based on braised ox cheeks or slow cooked veal shanks.