Q&A with an Industry Insider, Kailash Gurnani

Brinda Gill speaks to Kailash Gurnani of York Vineyards about the York Shiraz Viognier 2018 blend, recently launched in the market.

How did you decide to produce a Shiraz-Viognier blend?
The York Shiraz Viognier is a New World style inspired from the blend made in Côte Rôtie in the Northern Rhône Valley. I first came across this blend when studying viticulture and oenology in Australia (2006-2010) and it stayed at the back of my mind. It is unusual to blend red and white wine. Further, I was intrigued as the viognier allowed the shiraz to retain its acidity much better than a 100% shiraz. Much later – when we decided to explore a new wine and a new style – I thought a shiraz-viognier blend would be a new wine experience for wine lovers as many of them already enjoyed our shiraz.

Could you tell us about the fermentation process?”
Although we have our own vineyards, we do not grow either of these grape varieties. So they are sourced from contract farmers with whom we are in touch throughout the growing season. The Shiraz is crushed first and the grape juice put into the tanks with the skins. Within the next four days, the viognier grapes are brought to the winery and whole bunches are put into the tanks with the shiraz that is already undergoing fermentation. This works well as in the second week of fermentation the alcohol level rises. The viognier berries and skin break down faster releasing more flavours into the ferment. Our process of fermenting the two grape musts together has worked well. The amount of viognier in the shiraz ferment is approximately 5%. The total fermentation time is about three weeks.

Does the blend also have a touch of oak?
Oak plays a great role in softening the wine, making it smoother and creating a distinct style. So I put some quantity of the blend in old oak barrels for ageing for about four to five months to supplement the varietal fruit characters and structure of the wine. Further, oak staves which give the wine a good flavour profile, are put in one tank. Some part of the blend is left un-oaked. I then check the flavour of all three and blend them to get a wine that has a nice flavour profile and oak presence. The floral, peach and tangerine flavours that are natural to the Viognier grape add a new dimension to the powerful and peppery shiraz. The muted presence of oak adds flavour and rounds off the blended wine very well.

What has the response been to the wine?
There has been a good response and the demand is rising. The 2018 vintage is in the market now, and 2019 will soon be. With each vintage, I am refining the wine and am happy with its natural progression!