Have you ever thought you might have the skills to become a master winemaker? You can test it out by blending your own wine with The Blending Bench experience at d’Arenberg Wines.
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We acknowledge that d’Arenberg Winery sits on Kaurna Land.
I’ve written about visiting the d’Arenberg Cube before, but it has taken me a while to get back and step up to The Blending Bench. To motivate me, I added this to my newest bucket list, and it wasn’t too long before the opportunity presented itself.
I don’t pretend to be a wine-maker, in fact, the exact opposite. I’ve done so much wine tasting over the years, but I still can’t tell wines apart or get those “blackberry & chocolate” aromas.
I was hoping this d’Arenberg wine blending would educate me a little more.
The Blending Bench allows visitors to use three different single vineyard Shiraz wines to learn about the different qualities wines can contain, and then blend them in different quantities to see the difference.
In the end, the favourite blend is bottled, named, labelled and taken home, to be consumed sometime in the next year.
The Blending Bench itself is located on the top floor of the d’Arenberg Cube using a corner of the wine tasting room.
When you arrive, you will be checked in by the staff on the ground floor, and then once you’ve gone upstairs (probably using the lift) you will again be greeted and pointed in the right direction.
We had a group of eight on a Thursday morning which was a nice number. Everyone was on time and we started almost immediately.
As we took our seats, in front of us we could see three wines poured into glasses marked Base A, B & C. These were to be the three wines we were blending. We also had pen and paper for making notes and glasses for blending.
These three single vineyard wines were specially chosen for their different characteristics. We are given simple tasting notes to help us, with where the vineyards were and the type of soil.
The selection of wines changes periodically, so even if you have done this in the past, you could go again and get a completely different wine.
Our host Kim started by directing us to the other wine that was in a stemmed wine glass. This was a sample of d’Arenberg’s Dead Arm Shiraz and was included as an example of a beautifully blended red wine.
Chester Osborn, the winemaker (and owner) here at d’Arenberg blends thirty different single vineyard wines to make this renowned drop one that often makes those top wines lists.
Then we started to look at, smell and taste each of the base wines, noticing particular qualities as Kim stepped us through the process.
It was interesting to note that some people in our group had completely different conclusions than others when it came to noticing the acidity, dryness or other characteristics. Some people tasted blackberries, others prunes.
This was a perfect example of why we all like different wines.
Once we had tried them all, it was time to start blending. We had three opportunities to make a wine we liked. It was a flashback to high school science classes as we carefully measured out each wine with pipettes.
The first blend was a guess – add in more of the favourite base, then percentages of the others. Taste and adjust.
Sounds simple, but by this stage, it was all just tasting like red wine to me! It had become very clear winemaking was never going to be my calling in life – I am much better suited to drinking it.
Choosing which of the blends to bottle was the hardest part.
Once I eventually picked one, we went ahead with mixing up enough to fill a bottle. This is when it really started to look like a science experiment as dry ice is used to help preserve the wine once it goes into the bottle.
First, there was dry ice in the jug we used to mix the wines, and more in the bottle as we poured our blend in.
The final step in the wine blending experience was coming up with a name for our wine (we had been told at the beginning to start thinking about it), adding that to the label and sticking it on the bottle.
Kim sealed the bottles for us, and while we all drank down any remaining Dead Arm Shiraz, we started the usual SA conversation about schools (how do we always get onto that?) working out who we knew in common. Such a SA thing!
Throughout the blending session, we were told stories related to the three generations of the Osborn family who have made the wines here.
We heard why the winery is called d’Arenberg, not Osborn, and where that distinctive red stripe that adorns every label comes from.
Now the wine has to rest for at least six weeks and must be consumed within a year due to the less-than-perfect bottling environment.
I’m looking forward to tasting it again without a completely confused palate to see what it’s actually like.
I may not have walked away with a perfect Shiraz blend, but I did walk away a little tipsy and content after a fun 75 minutes feeling like I was a mad scientist.
If you have even the slightest interest in wine, this is a worthwhile experience.
Once done, lunch is available at either of the two restaurants on-site for lunch – we ate at Singapore Circus and it was delicious – and you can explore more of what the d’Arenberg Cube has to offer – it’s more than just a cellar door.
The Blending Bench experience is offered every day at 10:30 am. There are only a maximum of 13 participants and it does sell out.
This means it’s a really good idea to book at least a few days in advance, or if booking a weekend or at a busy time, a couple of weeks in advance.
included with your ticket is entry to the Alternate Realities exhibition at the d’Arenberg Cube, but does not include entry to special exhibitions, such as the Dali Exhibition currently running.
For more things to do on the Fleurieu Peninsula, take a look at these
Things to do in McLaren Vale that Aren’t Wine Tasting
27 Top Things to do in Victor Harbor
3-Day Fleurieu Peninsula Itinerary
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