In the 2012 vintage I made my latest new release product, Chiaro (key-ah-row). The variety is Shiraz and the process I used was very different to that of the normal Red Art Shiraz. In fact, in that vintage I made five very different wines all from the Shiraz grown on my little vineyard! Apart from the normal Red Art Shiraz, I also made the Red Art Chiaro, Red Art The Blend, Red Art Rose´ and my most premium Shiraz, Raj’s Pick. It was so much fun to see what large variances I could create by applying different wine making techniques to the same variety.
The Chiaro is a lighter bodied Mediterranean style wine. I based the style on the French Beaujolais Cru and Red Burgundy wines. That is, I made a Shiraz that is reminiscent of a Pinot Noir! And why not, I say. The actual variety used in Beaujolais is Gamay, which is a cross of Pinot Noir and Gouais. Gamay was initially grown in Burgundy but the Duke, Phillippe the Bold, banned further plantings of it because he thought it was “a very bad and disloyal plant”. Burgundy’s preference for the Pinot variety forced the new plantings of Gamay to be done further south in Beaujolais.
As with all my wines, the fruit was handpicked, but instead of emptying most of the buckets of whole grape bunches into the crusher I put about 60% of them straight into the tank, with the remaining 40% crushed on top. This process is based on the carbonic maceration technique. The fermenting crushed fruit on top release carbon dioxide, protecting the whole bunches from spoilage. Natural enzymes breakdown the sugars, and fermentation occurs inside the whole bunches in this carbon dioxide rich environment. After 2 weeks of this I pressed out the grapes in my basket press. This gently pushed out all of the juice, which I then left to finish the fermentation process.
This carbonic maceration style process is responsible for the freshness and vibrant aromatics of raspberry, cherry, cocoa and cranberry in the Chiaro. It also makes a less tannic wine, making it more approachable when it’s young. I did not mature the wine in oak, as I normally would for a Shiraz; instead I bottled it early to capture that vitality.
The name Chiaro, referring to our lighter style Shiraz, comes from the Italian word ‘Chiaroscuro.’ Chiaro means light and scuro means dark. The term is used in painting and photography to describe the dramatic use of light and shade. The image on the label is my photo of a vine using a Holga camera. The Holga is a plastic, medium format film camera with a plastic lens. Its slightly dodgy construction allows for small light leaks to reach the film and the plastic lens distorts the image a little. I processed the film in the wrong chemicals in order to change the natural colours and add to the surreal feel. I chose this image because it represents lightness and has lovely chiaroscuro balance. The blue tone also reminds me of the Mediterranean.
I made the tiny amount of about 40 dozen bottles of Chiaro. It goes particularly well with French food and roast chicken, and on a warm day it is lovely slightly chilled. Chiaro is ready to be enjoyed now!