Fudge 2012: petrified dessert wine

It tastes like fudge.

The Fudge 2012 was created from desiccated grapes, which we're terming petrified. We managed to pin down winemaker Clayton Reabow mid-harvest to ask him all about this luscious dessert wine, made with 100% chardonnnay.

"We crimp the bunches stem so that all water translocation to the bunch is cut off. This occurs on the vine. The grapes begin to desiccate or dehydrate to the point that they look like raisins. The sugar level in the grape at harvest is close to 500g/L.  

When we harvest, we de stem the grapes and then place the stems back into the press so that they act abrasively on the grapes and assist with juice extraction. We press over 24 hours as it is difficult to extract juice from a raison. The first juice that runs off we disregard, and we rather keep the “syrup”  

The juice is not settled and transferred directly into barrel for wild fermentation. The ferment stops naturally due to the high osmotic pressure of the sugar on the yeast which eventually kills it off. The wine is matured in oak for 18 months.  

What inspired you to create a 100% chardonnay sticky?
My inspiration to create the wine was based on my inquisitiveness to see if it could be done or had been done previously. I did my homework and found that there was not much, in fact any, chardonnay straw wines available. Most as you know are made from chenin blanc, viognier, etc. So in 2012 we decided to experiment by vine drying the grapes. At the time, I did not know it would work so well. What was amazing for me was to see the sugar dehydrate to almost 50 balling which you can say is 500 g/L. The acidity remained exactly the same as the day we crimped it which was another anomaly for me although perfectly understandable.  

What I love about the wine is the purity of the palate. Most dessert wines accumulate volatile acids very quickly due to the sheer volume of sugar contained in the post ferment. The chardonnay seemed to fight this off and maintain low volatile acids.  

The fact that we have matured this wine in bottle for 4 years prior to release makes it extremely special for me.