Bud to Bottle

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Part 1 – October

Where does wine come from? How is it made? And how many months of the year are we actually making it?

I’m relatively new to the wine industry, and I find myself asking these questions on the daily. Here’s a quick run-down on me – my name is Tayla and I’ve worked in the Rob Dolan Wines Cellar Door since February 2019. I find myself able to talk about the citrus and white peach flavours I get out of our Chardonnay but I felt I lacked a true and deep understanding of what really happened behind the scenes of a winery.

So here I go, sneaking behind the scenes, talking to people who have been back there for years (many longer than I have been alive!), to find out what really goes on, in real time. I thought, why not document my findings as I go? Bring along the real lovers of our wines – you guys! And maybe you can learn something along the way with me.

So please come along with me – to the vineyards, to the winery and into the cellar door and follow the process over the next year.

And with that, I’d like to welcome you to the first instalment of ‘Bud to Bottle’.

Great wine starts with one thing – GREAT fruit. At Rob Dolan Wines, we’re all about making seriously drinkable wine, and we like to think we’re pretty good at that. However, there’s an integral part of winemaking that we like to leave up to the people that really know what they’re doing – the growers. Our aim is to highlight the best of the Yarra Valley by sourcing fruit from right across the region – including, but not limited to: the cool and picturesque upper Yarra reaching out to Gladysdale, right through to our neighbouring suburb of Chirnside Park in the warmer, lower Yarra.

By doing this, we give our team of winemakers the ability to make a unique range of wine styles.

One of the many Vineyards that we source our fruit from, specifically Pinot Noir, is School Lane in Tarrawarra. I will be looking a little closer at the techniques they use over the coming months to discover how they produce the high-quality fruit that we here at Rob Dolan Wines have the pleasure of working with. I popped out to the vineyard to have a chat with Maris, vineyard manager and viticulturist, to have a look at what’s happening at the moment and document the growth of the vines.

Currently, we’re at the start of the season. The vines have laid in a dormant state during the winter months – busy dropping their leaves and producing brown scales that protect the vines from the harsh winter weather. As soon as spring hit however, there was a burst of activity – bud burst occurred. Bud burst is when the little shoots come forth on the vine with leaves and flowers. It may be of interest to note here, that many parts of the growing process are changing in terms of when things happen due to changing climate conditions. We’ve seen picking happening earlier and vintages slowly becoming more condensed. Bud burst, however, traditionally occurs in the first week of spring – a rare guarantee these days. The shoots are anywhere between 5-12cm, which is good growth for this time of the year.

An issue that the team at School Lane must keep a close eye on is frost. This is an issue throughout September and October if it’s been an especially dry season. If there’s no moisture in the soil, frost can develop leading to frost burn. Frost burn basically deems the vine useless for the season. After the primary bud is burnt and falls off, a secondary bud will grow, however this bud won’t be fruitful.

Up next, the team at School Lane may begin tending the vines, protecting them with organic matter, such as straw, to protect them from weeds. Weeds will compete with the vines for moisture and nutrients. Some viticulturists may start spraying at the first signs of bud burst. This decision is based purely on how confident they are that there won’t be a carry-over disease (eg. powdery mildew) from the previous year. Maris is very confident that this won’t be an issue at School Lane, so he’s waiting a bit longer. Once he begins spraying, it will occur every 10-14 days.

At this stage, a close eye is also being kept on the shoot development and bunch potential i.e. how quickly the shoots are growing and how may bunches they can expect to see out of a crop. This helps to estimate how many tonnes will be produced after harvesting.

Extreme growth will take place in the coming weeks, which we aim to capture and share with you, so please do follow along.

Shining a spotlight back on the winery for a moment, during September and October, we’re heading more towards the pointy end of the year. We are bottling many of the 2019 vintages and working on getting the wines everyone knows and loves, out on to shelves.

Keep an eye on our blogs to stay up to date with all things Rob Dolan Wines, and hopefully I’ll see you for the second instalment!

Until then,


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