My commitment is to produce cool climate wines – each a collection of the best lots of grapes that allows for a sharp focus on every detail – constructed to honour the subtleties and elegance of old-world wine traditions.
What I attempt through my winemaking practices is to achieve a balance among the component parts of a wine. The realisation of this balance between fruit, acidity, tannin, and alcohol ensures both a wine of finesse and enduring elegance.
Each year’s vintage reflects a deft winemaking approach that adapts to Mother Nature’s needs, moods and realities throughout the growing season. The result is pristine grape clusters harvested with uniform ripeness at lower sugar levels – the foundation for crafting classic wines that are approachable while young yet still age gracefully.
I push the farthest boundaries of winemaking quality with a diverse selection of vineyard blocks, fine-tuned year after year. Only the highest-ranking wine lots will be selected for Flying Cloud’s barrel cellar, where a judicious combination of mature and new oak, primarily French, helps Flying Cloud wines achieve its elegant style. While current trends in much of winemaking today may focus on recipes for crafting big, powerful wines to garner scores, Flying Cloud remains committed to a timeless style of wine renowned by chefs, sommeliers and consumers alike for its food pairing affinity.
Winemaking evolves once the grapes arrive at the winery. Treated with the same amount of care and scrutiny as the clusters were before harvest, wine components are kept separate by vineyard block, allowing for each to reveal strengths and weaknesses as potential contributors to a final blend. Hedonic tastings are conducted after fermentation, wherein it is determined, purely based on tasting assessment, which wines should comprise the final blend. Wines are given classification ranks, and if there is a mediocre tank of wine, it is declassified and sold.
While many wineries blend wines just before bottling, how I make wine is a bit different. I blend wine components before barrelling to enhance the wine’s elegance and finesse. This blend of contributing components marries in barrel, allowing the wine to breathe and develop a deeper complexity as the components harmonise. My approach allows the wine to achieve even greater balance after a year of aging in small oak barrels. Vintage after vintage, no formulas are employed.
This artful blend of different vineyards, winemaking techniques, and barrels ensures every vintage of Flying Cloud maintains its hallmark elegance and consistent quality.
My commitment to aging wines with approachability and age-ability requires great care in selecting not only the barrels, but also the corks, bottles and determining how long to cellar the wines before release.
A profound respect for all these components helps define the style, balance, and complexity of Flying Cloud’s wines.
At Flying Cloud, the selection process for oak barrels and barrel cooperages is as essential to the elegant style as the precision farming of the grapevines. It is here, in barrel, that the blended wine components harmonise, the bitter and astringent tannins become silky, and the oak contributes an elegant softness to the developing wine.
Every vintage, the wines is aged in a selection of barrels at various toast levels from a multitude of coopers. These wines are then blind tasted to determine which types of barrels are harmoniously suited for best expressing the varietal fruit character and tannin structure of the new vintage.
All winemaking decisions at Flying Cloud, even the selection of barrels to be employed, are made by taste. The result is an artful mix of ultra-premium oak styles and toast nuances that contribute to the structure and balance of my wines.
Only the highest quality barrels with tight oak grains and various toast levels are used. The blend of new versus used oak changes year to year and no formulas are employed, but a sharp focus is placed on using a judicious amount of new oak, typically less than 40%, to retain the wine’s natural elegance and balance.
Paying a premium price for subtle oak nuances is expressly my intention at Flying Cloud, where I strive to achieve a consistent, pitch-perfect balance between fruit, tannin and acidity in my wines each vintage.
The same meticulous care that is taken in the winery and selecting barrels extends to selecting natural cork closures for every bottle of Flying Cloud.
To ensure that the aging process continues as gracefully in bottle as it did in the barrels, it is important that the bottle closure is carefully selected. Fifty percent of the world’s cork supply comes from Portugal, with several different grades of quality available to wineries. Flying Cloud only purchases the highest quality grade of wine corks available worldwide.
These types of corks – with their tighter, less porous grain and long shape – undergo rigorous testing and sorting and are re-sorted once they arrive at the winery to remove any additional corks that don’t meet my quality standards.
I deem high-quality natural cork to be the ideal method to allow my wines to breathe and evolve. The harvesting of cork trees, which entails removing only the bark, is a sustainable farming practice steeped in family tradition. The bark is hand-harvested and is allowed to regrow untouched for nine years before harvested again, allowing these towering trees to live for centuries. Corks are a natural product I am honoured to support.
Maturing in bottle
After each vintage is bottled, my commitment to the classic and elegant style of Flying Cloud continues in the wine cellar, as vintages are held in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment for a year before release.
While this is a longer holding period than most prestigious wineries, I believe it is an appropriate amount of time to allow the young red wine to truly acclimate to the bottle and the white wine’s acidity to fully integrate. This extra time in the cellar ensures that the wine will be ready to drink on the release date or prepared for additional aging in private cellars.
Any wine worthy of aging requires balanced components of acidity, tannin structure and fruit expression. Only wines of balance age. Balanced wines capable of cellaring, like the Flying Cloud – Sea Serpent and Flying Cloud – Witch of the Wave, are also stunning in their youth for exactly the same reason. With balance comes harmony and with harmony comes elegance and finesse—regardless of age.
A well-crafted wine does not become a different wine with age; it simply matures for the better. Its personality evolves in a way that leads to increased aromatic complexity and texture. The decision of when to open a Flying Cloud – Sea Serpent and Flying Cloud – Witch of the Wave depends primarily on personal taste preferences. Both wines are crafted for graceful evolution in bottle and enjoy myriad aromas and flavours throughout their aging process.