One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of making wine from a single vineyard is vintage variation. Most winemakers worth their salt will decide not to make a single vineyard wine if the vintage is deemed not to be superb.

The widely acclaimed Bannockburn Serré Pinot Noir is an excellent example of a top notch winemaker’s respect for the integrity of this approach. As winemaker Michael Glover explained to the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown, “Our winemaking is reactive. You’re constantly reacting to what the season is.” (2008 Bannockburn Serré Pinot Noir by Lisa Perrotti-Brown, #195 June 2011)

The Bannockburn Serré Pinot Noir is made from a dry-grown, organically cultivated 1.2 hectare vineyard planted at Bannockburn in 1986. The vineyard was deliberately designed to match the tough conditions of the great grand crus vineyards of Burgundy. Closely planted vines (9,000-10,000 per hectare), narrow rows and low trellising force the roots to dig deep for moisture and nutrients, and limit crop yields. Apparently, in 2006 yields were so low that fruit from four vines were required to make just one bottle of wine!

Garry Farr of By Farr established Bannockburn’s reputation as one of the finest makers of pinot noir in Australia. But Glover, who took over in 2005, is taking the Serré to even greater heights. The Wine Front’s Campbell Mattinson describes Glover as “an idealist, a passionate man who’s done his time and made his mistakes and learnt the ropes – and has now been handed the keys to a set of Ferrarri-like vineyards, open licence to drive them really fast, and really well.” (From Evan to Earth, From Hands to Glover: Bannockburn by Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front 13 November 2006)

For Glover great wine is definitely made in the vineyard, and one of the first decisions he made upon joining Bannockburn was to turn off the irrigation. Glover’s reasoning was that a dry-farm approach would not only halve the vineyard’s tonnage (putting it more in line with typical yields for grand crus Burgundy), but it would force the vines to discover and express their own personality. As he told Mattinson, “To ask this vineyard to go without water is asking a lot of it. It is tough out here. It’s dry, it’s windy, it’s hot, it’s hard. …This vineyard is itself. It’s got its own personality – no other bastard has got this particular patch of dirt, and it’s our job to make sure that the wine are allowed to express that.”

Complex,  highly perfumed, finely textured,  pure flavours and terrific length are the typical hallmarks of the best vintages of one of Australia’s finest expressions of pinot noir.

Merrill Witt, Editor