First published by Paul Kaan on

Follows the Grapes & Friends of the Filthy Good Vino Bathtub Winemaking Project as we Pick Grapes & turn them into Wine with a Smile! This year we’re making Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yarra Valley in Victoria, Australia.

After 10 years away from the game, it’s time to make wine again. I’ve made wine with some of the best and the brightest in Australia and around the world.

Now it’s time to make wine just for me, so I’m pulling out the bathtub with a few friends and it’s time to squash grapes!

Vintage is almost upon us! The first grapes for the Filthy Good Vino Bathtub Winemaking Project are about to be picked!

It’s an incredibly early season. The last time I picked Cabernet in the Yarra Valley was at Yarra Yering in 2003. We started picking on the 10th of March. Yarra Yering always picked at least a couple of weeks earlier than everyone else.

In 2015 we’ll pick on the 4th of March. Yields are low and flavours look good. Check out this beautiful 100g bunch of Yarra Valley Cabernet for the Filthy Good Vino Bathtub Winemaking Project! Nice small berries, tannin is so close to ready!

A 150g bunch of YV Merlot! Notice how much more open the bunch structure is. Softer, floppies stalks. Bigger berries, riper tannin than the Cabernet, perhaps over ripe! Yielding higher at 3.5+ tonnes/acre. We won’t be taking this fruit it’s lost it’s natural acid and freshness due to exposure to the hot afternoon sun.

Dissected Berries Close-up! Cabernet on top, Merlot at Bottom. Notice the general darker, browner seed colour of the Merlot. Crunching on them the tannin is riper than the slightly greener seeds of the Cabernet. You can see the clear flesh of the grape, all the colour & tannin being held in the skins will be extracted during fermentation.

9 Merlot Berries in varying States of Health!

3 Healthy ones on the left, lovely blue colour, a nice bloom, the frosty looking skin. It was rubbed off a bit by my handling the berries.

The 3 berries in the middle are scorched by afternoon sun from the West. Without a canopy to protect them the sun has bleached them, note the browner more transparent skin.

These berries have less acid and flavours are thinner and a bit cooked, lacking the freshness of the 1st 3 berries.

The 3 berries on the right are the next progression caused by sun exposure and have shrivelled to varying degrees, just like dried sultanas. The sugars in these are difficult to extract during ferment.

The preference would be to sort fruit to remove berries like those in the last two columns.

Measuring sugar levels in the Cabernet. 12.4 Baumé should give a final alcohol around 13.6% Nice to know. The most important factors are flavour & tannin ripeness. These babies are ready to pick! Had to go Ghetto and use a bottle instead of a measuring cylinder to float the hydrometer in!

Juice tasting time! Merlot & bunch stalk on left, Cabernet on right! Stalks have an incredible spice about them that. I like to throw a few in the ferment to layer in some yumminess! Juices tasting good. Same sugar levels, better acid & flavours in the Cab. It’s go time! Let’s do this!

Next up: Picking Time!

I’d love to hear more from you. Shout out with any of your wine questions.

If you found value in this article, it would mean a lot to me if you hit the recommend button!

I’m a digital strategist at The Social Larder & a lover of Filthy Good Vino sharing wine experiences that make your heart race, because yumminess has no limits!