The story of Flowstone Moonmilk
Stuart Pym, 24 January 2020
The Flowstone Moonmilk wines are unashamedly made to be enjoyed in casual, relaxed occasions. The Moonmilk white blend is just perfect on those warm Summer afternoons (on the weekend of course), while the Moonmilk red is made for mid-week barbecues and pizza, or just switching off with a lovely glass of red that doesn’t command your attention.
The early drinking red wine has had its high and low periods, yet there are still classic wines of the world made as just this – specifically Beaujolais, the Joven (juvenile) wines of Spain and fantastic blends from the southern Rhône. An early drinking red wine is nothing to be ashamed of – it is a celebration of the season!
The Moonmilk red wine draws inspiration from all of these.
The blending of primarily Shiraz and Grenache, is directly from the lovely medium bodied and juicy wines from the southern Rhône (without the “M”). There is a small percentage of Viognier added, which is reflecting on those beautifully sophisticated, and elegant wines of the northern Rhône (Côte-Rôtie). The bright youthfulness of the wine is reflective of the Joven wines of Spain, that receive little, if any, aging in barrel. There is also a large amount of whole bunches included in the red fermentation, thus drawing on the wonderful aromatic world of Beaujolais.
All of this leads to a fantastically drinkable wine, full of lovely aromatics, juicy rich fruit, and bright fresh vibrance. It is a wine that celebrates the exuberance of youth.
The Shiraz and Grenache come from primarily central vineyards in Wilyabrup in the Margaret River region, giving breadth and richness. The Viognier from the southerly sites, close to Augusta, lending some wonderfully supple and lithe notes to the wine.
Everything in the winemaking is done gently, so there is no excessive tannin extraction. No pumping of the grapes, only plunging of the ferments in open tanks, manual digging out, and a very gentle press cycle. The grapes are also pressed off skins much earlier than usual, to reduce the time for tannin extraction from the skins.
The wine then rests for about 10 months, in a combination of amphora and old oak barrels…some VERY old. Some of these big old barrels are actually old Cognac barrels, which do release some very subtle Cognac nuance to the wine, which just adds another element and dimension. I am allowed to buy 1 of these a year…..
The wine is then bottled, and relaxes in bottle for a year prior to release.
This is a wonderfully relaxed wine that drinks sublimely in its youth. For those with willpower, you will be surprised as to how well it will age, and it is certainly worth hiding some in the cellar.
What does Moonmilk taste like?
Appearance: deep and vibrant red/purple, with purple notes. The colour is extraordinarily dense, and full of vibrance.
Aroma: plums, mulberries, poached strawberries, red fruits, lifted cherry notes, spice and dark chocolate. An engaging and enticing array of aromatics that is very hard to put down.
Palate: generous and soft, with bright fresh flavours. The flavours are surprisingly complex as they evolve from one to another. There is great length of flavour and texture, and abundant, but soft, juicy tannins. This wine drinks fantastically now, and will for some years.
Food ideas: slow cooked pulled pork with braised vegetables, duck pizza, shepherd’s pie, lamb chops with pistachio couscous, while you are waiting for the barbecue to warm up.
Drink: Now and over the next 12 years.
What was the 2018 season like for Margaret River?
Vineyard: Sourced from a few vineyards in the centre and south of Margaret River. The vineyards on the centre of the region give riper, more generous fruit characters, while the southern vineyards lend and almost Rhône austerity, while still retaining lovely aromatics
The 2018 season: The twelfth consecutive good season for Margaret River – and no, we are not getting sick of saying that. A moderately wet winter led into a typically mild Spring, and the rains dried up as Summer began. Summer was warm with a few hot spikes, but ample water in the ground kept the vines in good condition. The ripening period of January and February was moderate, with little or no rain – perfect conditions for the vines.
Yields were moderate, and the grapes could be harvested when they were perfectly ripe. The resultant wines have fantastic intensity and purity.
2018 will go down as an all-time classic for Margaret River.
Blend: 57% Shiraz, 40% Grenache, 3% Viognier.
Winemaking: The grapes were allowed to ripen to fully showcase their ripe varietal characters. These grapes were hand harvested from the 13th March to the 1st of April (down south).
The Shiraz was crushed and destemmed to open fermenters. The Grenache was just thrown into an open fermenter as whole bunches without crushing. The ferments were plunged three times per day (Grenache foot stomped). There was no temperature control.
At about 6 baume (mid ferment), the Shiraz was pressed, and allowed to finish ferment in old barrels. This allows the extraction of the colour and flavours from the skins, but avoids the harder extraction from the higher alcohol levels generated at the end of the ferment. The Grenache was allowed to complete fermentation on skins – the foot stomping would progressively break open berries, and release the sugars for fermentation. As such, the fermentation was long and gentle, resulting in a beautifully perfumed wine. Once fermentation was finished – about 3 weeks – the wine was pressed, and moved to barrel.
Malolactic fermentation for both varieties was allowed to occur in barrel. The wine remained in these barrels for 10 months, and was then blended.
The chosen oak was old barriques (older than 5 years), and 3 ex Cognac puncheons (older than 20 years, with Cognac being their last fill).
The wine was minimally fined, filtered and bottled.
The wine was allowed to settle after bottling for 12 months, and then released to maximise its bright, fresh juiciness.
Total production of 230 cases.
Retail price – $25 per bottle.