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The back label puffery of wine bottles never discloses how open to interpretation (and manipulation) grapes can actually be at harvest time. You don’t have to make your chardonnay the same way you did last year, and you don’t have to emulate some famous grower in Chablis or the Cote de Beaune. You still have to respect the fruit: it’s only at optimum ripeness for a brief time, but while it’s on that plateau of maturity, you have many options.

Any number of factors can drive that decision-making process: is the market looking for big rich wines, or has the trend changed, and is lean and flinty the flavour of the season? Do you have space in your winery to keep it in tank or barrel for the requisite ageing period? Unoaked wines can be released sooner whereas proper wood maturation can take up to a year for quality whites. A wine that has been aged in new barrels acquires oaky aromas: if you want the fruit to recover from the impact of the wood, you have to factor bottle-ageing t...

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