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the-south-asian.com 7 August 2000
‘Balanced, Blended & Bright’
Tareq Salahi - ‘Wine has been my whole life’.
Oasis has grown from a small to a medium sized winery producing over 20,000 cases a year – but it is among the larger wineries of Virginia, and the largest using Virginia grown grapes. Unlike some of the wineries that do not have their vineyards and buy their grapes, Oasis has 11 different grape varieties growing in its vineyard – they all ripen at different times – hence 11 harvests/stress cycles! This self-sufficient winery goes 2 stories underground. Wine is produced, packaged, bottled, labeled and also sold on site. "I sell 70% of the wine out of the winery!"
The timing of picking the grape is critical and normally means high adrenaline levels for those monitoring the harvest – for Tareq it is "…an exciting sort of stress"!! The timing is determined by the acidity, the pH and the balance of the two – a delicate balance that requires checking the grapes 3 times a day! Grapes do not necessarily have reverence for man’s sleep patterns – they may decide to attain that critical balance any time – if it happens at night – so be it. A team of individuals then stays up all night hand-picking the ripened grapes. Certain grapes, for certain wines, are picked only during the hottest part of the day for that is the time when the sweetness level of the grape is at its highest. "You can only keep your fingers crossed and hope Mother Nature gives you good weather."
Unlike humans, "…the vine loves being under stress – that’s why the vineyard always does well in dry weather" explains Tareq. "The last 3 years we’ve had a drought and I’ve had the best 3 vintages I have ever seen –– wait for those wines to be released – in the next 1- 5 years".
Tareq’s passion lies in the sparkling wines. His thesis at the University was on sparkling wine production. What makes Oasis unique is that they make champagne using the exact method utilized in Champagne, France today. "We allow the wine to go through a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, naturally - just like the French do in Champagne. However, we allow it to go longer - instead of 3 years, which is the minimum provided in Champagne, France, we go for 7-8 years, which is an extended amount of aging time in a bottle. That’s our celebration Brut – one of the top 10 in the world". His second passion is red wines.
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