Cuttings - Jen Pfeiffer - October 2014
By Jen Pfeiffer
Greetings from Portugal!!!!!
I’m here doing vintage at Quinta Dos Murcas in the Douro Valley. Quinta Dos Murcas is a small winery situated in a tiny little town called Covelinhas (in between Pinhao and Regua for those of you who have been there before). I think we are about ½ way through the vintage as I write this, with most of the remaining fruit set to come in next week. I’ve had a great time but that’s a story for another time……
As we approach the end of this year (boy how the time flies!), I would like to thank all of you for sharing our 30th anniversary year with us, through our dinners and long lunches, your visits to the winery and all the lovely emails, phone calls and cards congratulating us. We’ve had a wonderful year.
As you all probably know, I came home to work for the vintage in 2000. At that point in my life, I didn’t really know if I wanted to be a winemaker, I was just thinking I would be able to save a bit of money and then possibly head off overseas and travel for a year or so. Dad gave me the responsibility for making the Pfeiffer Shiraz that year (under his careful watch of course). Pretty soon I was hooked on this winemaking thing and to add more fuel to the fire, the 2000 Pfeiffer Shiraz (my very first wine) won a gold medal. While Dad lets me take all the credit for that wine, I think he can be credited with getting me hooked on winemaking…..and now I can’t stop!!!!!
So that was the beginning of the “pfamous” “pfather”- daughter winemaking team, Chris and Jen Pfeiffer. One of the things that make Rutherglen such a unique and special region is the cross-generational winemaking. And we are all enjoying the benefits of that now at Pfeiffer Wines. While Dad and I don’t always see eye to eye (just ask Mum, she’s always saying she’s the jam in a very headstrong sandwich), the combination of all of Dad’s experience and wisdom, with my enthusiasm and drive, is allowing us to make some great wines, evidence of which can be seen in our now bulging trophy cabinet!
One of the great things about working with Dad is that he isn’t afraid to try new things. We are always trying new winemaking techniques to improve the quality of our wines. Together, we have introduced several new wines into the Pfeiffer range – including Gewürztraminer, Tempranillo, Seriously Pink, Moscato and this year, Durif. Our Gewürztraminer and Durif are both on show in this pack….and I’m delighted to say that Dad and I now have another trophy to put in the cabinet for our Durif!!!!
Of course there are some funny stories surrounding the physical work in the winery – and I think my favourite dates all the way back to 2001. We had just bought a new press, which was bigger than the old one, and we had hoped it was going to make our life a lot easier. The trouble was that we weren’t experienced with this type of press and we kept over-filling it which made the pressing process a lot slower. One day we had loaded up fermenting Muscat into the press…..and guess what? We had overfilled it. The screens in the press blocked and no juice could run out of the press. This created a pressure chamber inside the press with the fermenting Muscat.
With all my inexperience, I decided that the best way to reduce the pressure in the press would be to open the door and allow some gas to be released. Of course, this turned out to be the absolute worst thing to do, as fermenting Muscat shot out at extreme force all over the winery……one hour before we had a team of sales reps coming to visit!!!!!
It certainly was all hands on deck, cleaning up this horrible muck that had been sprayed all over our tanks and other equipment. Dad, ever the professional, conducted the tour and the tasting as if nothing was wrong (we had cleaned up before they arrived) and then once the group had left, set about fixing the problem of the pressurized press.
Like all good ideas, we decided upon this one at around midnight. Dad’s solution was to put a hose on the axial valve of the press and for him to direct the Muscat into a couple of picking bins whilst holding on to the hose. We could then unblock the screens and hopefully get pressing again. May I point out that the pressure inside the press was now over 200kpa!!!!
My job was to open the valve on Dad’s say so…….let me tell you, I have never seen anything quite like it in my life – the Muscat came out of the hose with such force, Dad was literally bouncing up and down off the ground, hanging on to the hose for dear life and trying to direct this Muscat into these bins. I think he lost 2kgs there and then!!!! I didn’t want to laugh, but it was something straight out of the movies!!!!!
I remember at 3am when I was standing on top of the press, shoveling this stuff back in as we’d finally got the press going, thinking to myself, why the hell am I doing this????? Well now I know the answer….it was because I was, and still am, hooked on this winemaking caper. And 13 years on from that memorable night, I would do it all again if I had to.
Enjoy the wines, and hope to catch up with you soon.