Acid and sugar: a tale of two hemispheres

It was once axiomatic that as you crossed the equator going north acid became the work of the devil, and as you crossed it going south sugar was the work of the devil. In other words, full ripeness was often hard to achieve in the great regions of France, Italy, Germany and so forth. Thus Napoleon’s minister of the interior, Jean-Antoine Chaptal, legalised the addition of sugar in 1807.

In Australia, abundant sunshine mostly meant ripeness wasn’t an issue, but retention of sufficient acidity was – and acid was added automatically and liberally. However, times have changed on a number of fronts. The abuse of alcohol in all its forms has become a social issue in this country, lower alcohol levels in wine seen as desirable.

In Europe, warmer summers have been a godsend in many regions, the need for the addition of sugar (chaptalisation) diminished, and better wines made in an era in which organic/biodynamic viticulture has revolutionised every aspect of winemaking. Add the benefit of sorting tables, some with every berry optically scrutinised, factor in rising wine prices and there’s no need for cost-cutting, better wine being the bottom line.

Winemakers in Australia focus on minimising, if not eliminating, the need for additions (other than SO2) and manipulations such as fining and filtration. Which is where Yelland & Papps come in. This self-taught husband and wife team had their first vintage in 2005, making standard Barossa red wines with 14.5% alcohol or more until the floods of 2011 meant they had no option but to handpick their fragile bunches at 12 baume, not – as hitherto – 14 baume. The pair had purchased their Nairup Road winery and 2ha vineyard in 2010, and it was here they did their second take. They have not set out to singlehandedly change the perception of the Barossa Valley’s red wines, but they do offer vibrancy and freshness as calling cards. And they are vegan-friendly.

2020 Yelland & Papps Second Take Barossa Valley Grenache

Hand-picked, 68-year-old vines, wild fermented with 3-4 weeks on skins, matured for 9 months. Typical light colour; the perfumed bouquet of wild forest fruits and rose petals takes in raspberries and preserved cherries. 12.3% alc, screwcap 93 points, drink to 2025, $45

2020 Yelland & Papps Second Take Barossa Valley Shiraz

Striking colour; hand-picked, 50% whole bunch, wild yeast ferment, part open, part in barrel, 9 months maturation in French puncheons. Black spices drive the bouquet, the palate with red and black cherry fruit. It’s vibrantly fresh and zesty; tannins provide texture. 12.2% alc, screwcap 94 points, drink to 2029, $45

2020 Yelland & Papps Second Take Barossa Valley Mataro

Hand-picked, 69% whole bunch ferment in open fermenters and barrel, 3-4 weeks on skins. Very good purple hue, bright crimson on the rim. The most substantial of the three wines profiled. Spice, black pepper and cinnamon punctuate the plum that fills the mouth, aided by a gloss of super fine tannins. 13% alc, screwcap 95 points, drink to 2035, $45